Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Magic

In which Tim explores the world of Magic: The Gathering one
card at a time, courtesy of Gatherer's "Random Card" button.

Hulking Cyclops (Sixth Edition, 1999)

The commander of the cyclops army paced back and forth in front of a desultory line of infantrymen. Dozens of soldiers lined up in imprecise rows, leaning on their clubs with their eye shut, or whittling spear-tips absent-mindedly while waiting for dinner. Cyclops are a disorganized and slovenly bunch as a rule. Circumstances had forced these cyclopses to turn against their natural disposition to solitude and band together to repel invaders. They were the last line of defense between their enemies and the ancestral homelands known to cyclops for generations since the Ancient Plunder.

The cyclops commander was an old, taciturn warrior named Bolgarad. He loved fighting in a way that stood out even in a race well known for their violent habits, and his thick, mottled skin was a map of twisting scars. He was general because he had something few other cyclops did: experience fighting in an organized military, based on years of service as a mercenary in the world abroad. Cylcopses were violent and disagreeable - to say nothing of being around ten feet of rippling muscle and iron bones - but their one saving grace was that they disliked traveling, and would rarely go far beyond their neighborhood to seek conflict. Bolgarad was an exception, and his expertise in the field of organized combat made him a rare authority figure in a community usually defined by its bearish resistance to organization.

"OK, men," he began with great solemnity, "we have only one chance left. We beat them at the pass, with heavy losses on both sides. We lost a lot of good cyclopses, and there are hundreds more who will be many moons recuperating from wounds received from the tainted spearpoints of the Necromonger's cavalry."

"They're hurting, but we're hurting too. We're all exhausted. All of you were there on the front lines. You fought like animals, and you're the reason why we have a chance to pull this thing out. The Eagle Lord tells us that the Necromonger is massing his army five clicks away for one more push at the base of Goblin Butte. If they make it through the peaks and into the valley they will overrun the lands, but if we break them at the bottleneck under the Butte we should be able to scatter them."

"We have three regiments of our freshest troops marching south at double time to outflank their army from below the Butte. Since we broke the Opal Mirror we know that their army has no aerial reconnaissance, so with any luck they should be able to surprise the rear of the Necromonger's column at the moment they hit the bottleneck."

"Our job is to hold the line. When they come streaming through that gate we have to stand and push back. We have to block them however we can until we can meet the other regiments pushing forward from the back. Then we will paint the canyon walls with the black blood of these inhuman revenants!"

The massed cyclopses registered their enthusiasm with the equivalent of a muted shrug. They had been fighting for days, and after a while even the hardiest and mightiest warrior must feel the weight of gravity pulling his tired form to the earth. They all knew what was at stake, though, if Thargull could plant a beachhead in the enchanted lands beyond the Lonely Canyons. Not just the ancient clanlands of the cyclops race, but every island and continent in the Hidden Archipelago beyond the sea of Snardoth.

A young cyclops leaned at the back of the cavern, just under a flickering brazier suspended by heavy chain from the cave ceiling. He appeared restless, and unusual for a cyclops, pensive. Bolgarad locked eyes with the soldier from across the room.

"You there," the commander called, "you lazy son of a tree! What is your name?"

The pensive cyclops answered meekly, "Me, sir?"

"Yes, you!"

"My name is Bah'rtl'bee."

"Bah'rtl'bee! You seem bored by our dire circumstances! Are you unwilling to block the enemy and protect our ancient homeland?"

"I would prefer not to."

"You would prefer not to?"

"Yes, sir."

Bolgarad raised his hand and brandished his club. It was eight feet tall, carved from the lightning-blasted stump of a one-thousand-year-old stone tree in his grandfather's time and cured with the oil of a finback whale purchased off a traveling sailor. It had been blessed by five oracles during his tenure in the peacekeeping army of Mulain the Blue. In the past week along it had cracked the skulls of hundreds of undead skeleton berzerkers. With a sudden speed that belied his size and age, Bolgarad flung the club through the air and hit the surprised Bah'rtl'bee squarely on his forehead, just above his eye.

"Make sure that Bah'rtl'bee wakes up on the frontline, won't you?"

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