Jace pieces together his new life on Ravnica, or at least what he thinks is his life.
|Introduction & Disclaimer – Again, we return to the ecumenopolis, Ravnica. Jace Beleren, having experienced his first planeswalk, has ended up on Ravnica. Yet, he has no memories of his past before coming here. After enough searching around, and mind reading, he eventually found refuge in the home of Emmara Tandris, a high-ranking official of the Selesnya Conclave. Join us now as we find out how he created a life on his new home, or at least, the illusion of a new life.
Don't own MtG and never will. Sorry.
* * *
Jace read and reread the words again and again, still wracking his brain for a meaning, for some context to understand the message that had been sent to him. But then, had the message really been sent to him? What if it was for someone else?
He scurried back to his apartment in the tenth district. He moved a few books back to their piles on the floor, trying his best to be somewhat tidy. He really needed shelves, he thought. Then at least he could have them organized. He kicked aside a few loose cloaks laying in a heap on the floor and sat down at the table.
He flipped over the paper several times, searching for some clue as to where it had come from. It was parchment, no big surprise there, everyone used it. He sniffed. No smells of anything burnt, so it couldn't be from the Izzet labs.
Jace's first conclusion was that this had something to do with the Dimir. Had to be, he thought. No one else leaves cryptic messages and skulks around the city leaving them. But, it was too obvious for it to be them. Plus, Jace had done his fair share of listening in to Dimir conversations in the past. These words meant nothing in connection with them.
He let all the air he had been holding out in one drawn out breath. What was he missing?
There were always the libraries. Jace could always count on finding answers there. Plus, if the Dimir really did have anything to do with this, going there would at least answer that question. He would either find his answer, or find the Dimir's attempts to conceal this information.
One other idea, or rather one other person could be trusted to at least consult with about this situation. How long had it been since he last saw Emmara? Jace closed his eyes, letting memories of her serene eyes and a voice that could make him lose all his wits linger.
* * *
"So, you really don't remember anything?" Emmara said, sitting down across from Jace.
He had decided that it wouldn't hurt to tell her a little of the truth. The way she had taken him in without question, the way she looked at him as though he truly mattered. She was worth a try. However, he couldn't even begin to tell her everything. There was no way for her to truly understand. Not that he understood it all himself.
It was as if he had never been part of this world at all. Every time people spoke, they used words like "Rakdos" and "districts," and he wanted to scream. What did they mean by all this? When he had walked through the streets to find Emmara's house, he found no friendly places, nowhere that looked like home. It was like he was a ghost here.
But he could at least tell her a little. "Yes, it's hard to explain, but I don't remember where I came from."
He had practiced this conversation all night, every sentence and word. Emmara was hard to read, as he had learned yesterday. He needed certain thoughts to come to the surface.
The wood of the table now seemed more interesting, and he avoided her gaze. She smiled, then turned her head to look behind her, directly at him, the real him, with a wry smile. "I think I could be of more help if I were talking to the real you."
Jace looked at her, mouthing a few syllables until he could voice his question. "How?"
As she stood, the illusion-Jace sitting across from her dissipated. She wrapped her arm around his shoulder, guiding him to the table. She didn't sound cross, not like a scolding mother, and the warmth that radiated from her touch made it known that she didn't consider this little antic worthy of punishment. "That's my little secret. Now, Berrim, sit please."
He could have corrected her then. He could have told her his real name. It wasn't like it had been a secret last night. The memory had just sort of "flashed" back just before bed. "Flashes," that was the right word. That was how some of these memories had started to come back, and he wished there would be more of them.
But, for now, it was better to be cautious. Who knew if Jace Beleren had a rap sheet a mile long? He took a seat.
"I suppose we could take you to the Simics tomorrow," she continued. "Perhaps they would be able to determine if there was any head trauma."
"Simic," one of the buzzwords he needed. He quickly scanned her thoughts to see what images that evoked.
Simics, biologists, of a sort, but they served the city's medical needs as well. Images of damp, chilled, underground sink holes and blue-skinned creatures with fins also came with this word.
As he probed further, he uncovered a new word he had been struggling with since he arrived: guilds. There were several of them, and they all had different purposes. They weren't necessarily at war with each other, but it sure wasn't peace either. He continued to dig further. Once he found an entrance to the maze of her mind, he could follow it.
Selesnya, her own guild. A religious group with some landscaping and beautification duties as well. Well-kept gardens, sculpted with absolute precision and the sense of communally working together for the well-being of all came with this.
"How old are you, Berrim?" Emmara asked, trying to make conversation.
Problem. Even Jace didn't know the answer to that question. He had tried last night to pull some memory that would give him a clue, but found none. He at least had prepared for a way around that. "You guess. How old do I look?" he said with a grin, trying to convey a playful tone.
She laughed, a strong ringing laugh that he would later love. "Very well then. Let's see…Human ages are so hard for me to guess. I'd say fifteen or sixteen."
Another buzzword. He knew when he first saw her that there was something odd, something not quite human about her. He followed her memories to find the right word.
"Elf." That was what she was. He had to say the new word a few times in his head. He was instantly pulled into memories of others like her, and quickly learned that they lived much longer than he could ever imagine. Emmara was a hundred and forty herself. No wonder reading her thoughts was so complex. It was a lot to go through.
"Um, sixteen," he said, giving her an answer, feeling like that was a close enough guess. "So, how long do I get to stay?"
"As long as you need," Emmara said, "but I am obligated to ask a few questions. Although I fear your memory loss might leave us with very few answers. Do you remember anything about your parents, Berrim?"
He only had small flashes of memories about people he assumed were his parents. He couldn't be entirely sure. All that came back to him was one memory. "I think I left them, or ran away, or something like that," he answered honestly. "But it's hard. I don't know if that's really it, or why."
Her hand reached out to his. "We will figure this out," she said. "In the meantime, I will discreetly ask some Azorius investigators to see if anyone is looking for you."
Azorius, lawmakers, Jace read. Busybodies, as Emmara sometimes considered them.
"Though, perhaps I won't mention that you are here," she continued. "Sometimes there are good reasons to run away like that." She smiled. "You will be safe here."
He smiled back. In truth, Jace knew he would have to figure things out on his own, but for now this would be a decent, temporary solution.
* * *
Clear skies, the warm sun, and the gardens in bloom meant that Ravnica's bitter-cold winters were finally over. It was a perfect day to be working the city gardens. At least, that was what Emmara told Jace. He would've rather remained in her libraries in her home in Ovitzia, but he had promised to help.
Jace jogged through the streets, cutting through back alleys when he could. If she hadn't noticed his absence by now, it would be a miracle. The centaur cleric waiting at the gate gave a whinny when he seemed to have magically popped out of the nearby bushes as he ran past the entrance. There were several members of the Conclave out and about, doing a bit of pruning here, some weeding there. A small group of children were playing nearby, likely a few more strays the Conclave had taken in.
She was there, primarily overseeing their work, but helping with a few plants here or there. He eagerly approached. "I'm here," he said, catching his breath.
She turned and rolled her eyes. "The point of this is for you to partake in some hard work, not one of your illusions." She nodded over to where he hid behind a shrub.
Jace sighed, and let the false him disappear. "How do you do it?" he begged.
She gave a long sigh, and only shook her head. She instead turned back to answer a few questions an initiate had, avoiding the question. Jace could hear the argument going back and forth in her mind. He knew his games were silly, but she just didn't see the challenge in it, not like he did. "Fine, think about it; what do your illusions lack?"
That really gave him pause. Emmara was like that: she always was posing him with challenging puzzles and questions. He had always known the Izzet scholars to be some of the smartest, but Emmara continued to surprise him with her own intellect. As he stayed with her, he began to piece back memories of life in Ravnica, or at least through her memories. Through her, he was able to learn most of what he needed to get by in the city. True, she did have her own biases about the other guilds, but he learned to work around that.
"Um…" he said after a long pause, feeling really stupid right now.
"No smell," she said. "You smell like you, but your illusions…nothing. You'll never fool an elf with them."
Of course, that made sense, he cursed. "Well, I'll just have to find another way, then," he said with a grin.
She placed her hands on his shoulders. "You really do have a gift, Berrim, but you need to find a good use for them. Using them to deceive people…"
Is no better than the Dimir, her mind finished. This puzzled Jace. He had never heard mention of the Dimir. Another guild perhaps? He racked her mind for answers, and was surprised to find very little. They were a guild, or close enough. They were shady, suspicious, and delved into everyone's business. The Azorius Senate kept claiming they didn't exist, but Emmara knew better. In fact, she feared them. Why?
Jace didn't delve too far. This was enough. He looked down to avoid her gaze. "Don't worry. It's all in good fun."
"Use your gift wisely, Berrim. Now, come. You've stalled long enough."
* * *
It took some time, but Jace was finally getting some answers, at least about Ravnica and its secrets, not his own past. Although, the more he thought about it, the more he decided that past didn't matter. He had forgotten it for a reason, so why bother? Or maybe it was just so painful, he made himself believe it wasn't important.
He also learned there was one illusion that could fool elves: false memories. Jace hated lying to Emmara. But then, he had already lied to her: about his name, his past, or at least the few details he did share, even about how he had been reading her mind. But, he still felt guilty, even if it was to protect her from himself. He still didn't know who he was or if he could be a danger.
The trick to making a false memory spell work was for it to have a single grain of truth. The truth was he had appreciated all her help, and was ready to find a life of his own. The lie was where he was going. He gave her the memory of having taken him to an Azorius Senator so that he would begin a journey in their service. He made the memory believable: how she wasn't entirely sure about him being a part of the obstructive senate, and the ease it would give her mind that he was putting his skills to good use, everything down to the last detail.
If he had been smart, he would have made her forget him entirely, but he couldn't bring himself to do that. The truth was, he wasn't ready to forget her.
In the meantime, he had been getting by on Ravnica's streets. Sure, they weren't the pristine, well-kept streets of the Selesnyan's district. Nor was it filled with the manicured plant-life and gardens he had been so accustomed to seeing while living with Emmara. In fact, everything about the tenth district was scummy. Filthy streets, ancient, stone buildings that were rotting from the inside, and some of the seediest folks he had ever seen, it was enough to make his stomach turn some days.
Still, he managed. Shopkeepers were easy to fool. They could be easily distracted by one illusion Jace stealing a loaf of bread while he waited for them to take the bait, or even a false wall that wasn't there a week ago. All the while, he kept close watch on the city through the eyes of its rats.
The Dimir were hard to find. Ever since that day Emmara had thought that name, he had wanted to know more. Who were they, and what sort of secrets did they purvey in? No wonder the Azorius considered them invisible. Even scrying through minds of various vermin, he still wasn't spotting any vital clues, at least not immediately. He would see a dark cloak here, or a concealed dagger there, but never anything concrete.
His big break didn't come until the day there was a great commotion in the market square. Some goblin test pilot for the Izzet lay dead in the streets, and everyone thought he had just died from another failed experiment from the mad thinkers. Jace, from his vantage point, watching through the eyes of a mother rat in her burrow with her head peeking out of a crack in the wall, knew exactly what had happened: cut brakes.
He saw the hooded figure bolt into the crowds. Just before he got away, he entered his new host's mind: the Dimir. He let the man keep his conscious thoughts as he watched the city through his eyes, not like the rats he controlled. No, him he needed to see where he would go. He had to know about this "forbidden guild." What good were secrets if one kept them to themselves?
The Dimir zigzagged through streets, diligently covering his trail from prying eyes. Jace felt a certain smugness as he watched everything. He hadn't yet figured out where he got his mental abilities, or how he was so well-equipped to use them (perhaps something from that long forgotten past?), but he was going to use it to his advantage. He needed this. He needed a real challenge.
The man rushed to one of the dark, grimy libraries deep within the tenth district. Of course, what better place for those who pursued the ultimate knowledge of the city? He quickly scurried to the back archives, disappearing behind a false wall. And he kept walking through dimly lit tunnels, heading for a rendez vous point, as Jace read his immediate thoughts.
Eventually, the man reached his contact: yet another hooded figure who kept to the shadows. By her voice, Jace could tell she was female. "A little sloppy back there," she said tersely.
The man shrugged. "What? Job got done. Our Izzet informant won't rat. And it looked like an accident. What more do you need?"
So, the Dimir traded in secrets. But he thought the whole notion of using informants was far too risky. If it were him, he wouldn't need to rely on informants to give him information, and wouldn't have to worry about situations like this. Less messy. He continued to listen.
"You also drew too much attention," she continued to lecture.
"Well, it looked like a typical Izzet accident."
"You got lucky. Here." She tossed a small sack to him: his pay.
"Wait, I was promised–" he began to protest.
"Had to pay to cover up the damages," she said.
Jace pulled out of his mind before he could see anymore. It would just escalate into a fight anyway. Deep in the alley he was hiding in, Jace came to in his own head. That was the longest he had ever been in someone's mind, and it was a lot harder than being in a rat's head.
He wanted to stop and process it all. So, the Dimir were an organization of spies, assassins, and blackmailers. Not the most savory bunch, to be sure, but there was no denying it was a group where his skill set would be useful. Still, he saw how they treated their new recruits. While Jace still remembered very little, he did still have fleeting memories of being cheated by his last higher up. He wasn't going to let that happen again.
A part of him wondered if the Dimir had been part of his life before his memory loss. It would make sense, but he had no way of knowing for certain. Plus, he was sure that if he had been a part of them, they wouldn't have taken too kindly to his absence. Best not to mess with that. Still, it was a challenge he felt compelled to take on. If he was going to involve himself with them, it would be on his own terms. They would have to come to him.
* * *
"You're a real…" the cardinal was about to say.
Jace clasped the bag of coin in his hand. "Trust me, you don't want to finish that thought," he said with a smug smile. He started counting.
It had taken a couple of years, but Jace finally found his footing in the world. In the cacophony of thoughts he heard daily, there were a few choice secrets he picked up. That was the easy part. Taking charge was the challenge.
The Orzhav cardinal's eyes narrowed, and Jace only saw the knife out of the corner of his eye. However, it was the cardinal who's eyes went wide when he saw his knife sticking out of Jace's side, but no blood. The illusion smiled before disappearing. Another Jace appeared out of the alley.
"Oh, trying to go back on our agreement, are we?" he said. "Not a good idea, unless you want the Syndicate to know about you holding some funds for yourself. I'm sure they'd love to know about where those missing collections went."
The cardinal muttered some curses and took a step forward, but he saw movement from above and saw yet another Jace standing on the rooftops. "You sure you want to keep playing this game?"
The cardinal ground his teeth together. "Fine, take your cut, you rat."
He slinked away and Jace picked up the coins up off the ground. All just an average day, he told himself. It was starting to become boring. Where was the challenge in it?
He let the illusion on the rooftop fade and started walking back to his apartment in the tenth district, all paid for from his "work."
It had started out easy enough. He heard a few dark secrets here or there. Easy to pick up on. Guilt always had a way of coming to the surface. Then again, their ego and pride at some of their deeds was an even stronger thought.
But, Jace told himself, he made sure he only blackmailed those who deserved it. A licentious Selesnya cleric who liked to make certain female initiates "disappear" for a few months at a time, or ambushed them and had them sent to the Simic doctors when it was not convenient for him. A corrupt Azorius investigator who hid files about her and her fellow investigators' excessive use of brutality. An Izzet mage who could explain several disappearances of vital sources of Mizzium. It was justice catching up to them. Okay, so more like justice with a nice payday for him. That still counted.
A piece of parchment fluttered down from above. Jace looked around, reaching into minds to see if anyone was nearby. No one, or at least no one simple-minded enough to fall for mere mind prying was around. Jace picked up the parchment and read the two words scratched on it: Infinite Consortium.
* * *
And here he was now, trying to figure out what all that meant. He sighed, letting his fist fall on the table with a sigh. He had wracked his mind, and maybe the minds of a few passersby, for any clue, but found none.
There was a roaring sound outside as some Izzet experiment exploded in the streets. The walls of the apartment rattled. All in a typical day on Ravnica. Jace had come to accept this life. He convinced himself that his forgotten past didn't matter. He would've ended up with a life like this no matter what. With skills like his, it was bound to happen. It was the life he was meant to lead.
But it really wasn't much of a life, Jace thought. He could convince himself of that all he wanted, but it was all a lie. The truth was he still didn't know who he was or who he was meant to be. This was just survival. He couldn't just keep living this illusion.
Yet, what did he want? What would be a life he could be happy with?
He flipped the paper in his hands once more. Infinite Consortium. One thing was certain, Jace needed challenges. He felt useless without some way to test his skills. This seemed like just the thing he needed. This felt…well, how did he feel? Something about these two words felt big, bigger than Ravnica. Like all puzzles, Jace had to know the answer.