Assemble the Coven Part One
The darkest hour of night is often poisoned by moonlight.
But as the wan radiance threatens to reveal my secrets, the fog drapes about me like a cloak. It wraps itself around my activity the way the forest wraps around the hill upon which I dig. The leering moon above is no adversary for the clandestine work of the Librarian. As it watches on, it does so alone. It cannot whisper to the aeons. It cannot reveal in the absence of Eyes to See.
But it does nothing to ease my paranoia. It has been countless hours since the family left, but the decrepit House on the Hill that overlooks my nefarious deed still looms. Before this day it was not traversed for more than a lifetime, but footsteps on the creaking floorboards in the humid air of the afternoon still echo through its halls. I have explored every chamber. I have wandered every hall. I spent hours preparing the library with for the Unorthodox Steps of the Ritual ahead.
I know the house is empty.
But I can feel it. Watching. Imposing. Accusing.
The soil is no less forgiving. While the fresh grave eases the burden and culpability, this family plot screams its age on the face of every weathered headstone. Beneath this earth the generations span a timeline older than non-indigenous folk were said to have inhabited these woods. Yet the interred bones are a burden of proof. So are the faded dates on the jagged slabs jutting up from the ground.
History is not without secrets.
But it is not history that I seek with my shovel.
Tireless digging. Disturbing only the freshest soil. It is the newest member of this plot that I exhume. Before the sun last rose above the horizon to the east, no one was buried here in close to a century. Until today. When the sun peaked in the sky, this earth was pried open. Like a gaping maw, it swallowed a young man dead before his time. He was lowered into his final resting place. But fate is cruel and time does not respect intention. Where a body is placed it can be unplaced.
The ceremony was performed in the open air, despite the aggressive summer heat. The house was in shambles, unsafe for even temporary habitation. Time is not kind to the untended work of human hands. And the house, a monument to ruin and abandonment, was not kind to things that needed to breathe. It kept the living away with the threat of mold and the promise of sickness.
The priest recited a sterile eulogy, memorized words and selections of scripture recited countless times before. The lack of sincerity or emotion was made my evident by the blistering conditions. As he forced the words from his lips, I stood quietly in the back, trying to remain unnoticed. The longer he droned on, the deeper I slipped into daydreaming. He spoke of the deeds of the past, but I was lost in visions of what was ahead. At least for a while, no one offered me a second glance or more than a passing greeting.
I was surrounded by extended family and obligatory attendees. Where others were filled with mourning, they held only contempt. Among their ranks, I aroused no suspicion. I was invisible. I mingled and conversed just enough to keep from attracting attention. My presence did not betray its foul or unwelcome nature.
His cousins were fervent in their disdain for the funeral. It was absurd to travel so far into the middle of nowhere, to hold an empty ceremony in unbearable conditions, and to bury him in such a remote and desolate place assured that no one would tend to his grave. Why would anyone insist on being buried here?
I repressed a smile. They harped about the obsession of their kin, not knowing that I was the source. They mocked his devotion, not knowing that I planted the seed in his psyche. They were bitter, but I was emphatic.
The house and the cemetery were a family secret from a past to which none of them felt connected. Only a few of his oldest relatives had heard of the place, and even then only in hushed whispers from a generation gone. As he began to ask, he discovered that those who knew anything were reluctant to admit it, and he was more often discouraged than obliged. This would not deter him, but instead spur his studies onward with greater passion and determination.
It was not by accident that he first uncovered his connection to this charnel monument. Under the guise of aiding his studies, I left him pieces of the puzzle like a trail of bread crumbs, and each discovery left him hungry for more. As I feigned reluctance to cover the nature of my assistance, he developed a dependency on my knowledge as he climbed through the most twisted and forgotten branches of his family tree.
When I finally revealed their location, when the house and the cemetery were finally in reach, there was nothing that would keep him away. And after the first time his eyes were able to realize the manifestation of his research, he was consumed by his obsession. He was determined to be buried in this soil, and set to work ensuring it would happen.
I set to work ensuring it would happen soon.
His family was horrified but he would not change his mind. When he suddenly fell ill just weeks later, his insistence on honoring this promise became harder to contest, as no one wanted to upset him in his as his rapidly deteriorating health mysteriously suggested he might not recover. In the end his demands would be met, despite his paranoid belief that he was being placated by loved ones.
I listened as they cursed him. He was foolish. Romantic. Stupid. Perhaps he was all of these things. But he was also impractical. Disrespectful to those left to manage his affairs. He was callous and inconsiderate. I smirked. They were petty. Empty. Heartless.
Never doubt the willingness of the living to express their bitterness at the inconvenience of honoring the dead.
Meanwhile the immediate family and close friends were consoling each other. It was a grotesque display of the human condition. Crying. Pleading. Wailing. An outburst from his father, spitting obscenities into the sky at an imaginary deity for taking his only son too soon. The loss was too much to bear. The fabric of this family was unraveling, and there was no one to try and hold it together.
A parent is never prepared to bury their child.
And no parent expects to have that child exhumed.
Hours later, as the sun fell from the sky, I watched the last of the line of cars speed away with the light. Headed back to their suburban life, to their pedestrian nightmares, they knew nothing of what was unfolding behind them. As the last car vanished beyond the trees, I headed to the house to prepare.
Laying out the Implements of Sacrifice on the table beside the Necronomicon, I wasted no time composing the Unorthodox Steps of Ritual. The air was more tolerable than it was at the peak of the day, but the absence of daylight provided new challenges.
This was not the work of malice. The bonds of mortality were severed from the fragile human shell, but they will now be stitched back together by design, with precision. Where once there was a listless desire for purpose, there will now be clarity. This endeavor will give more meaning to the vessel than was taken away, and it will not be burdened by the trappings of a mundane existence.
This is the path to victory. The means to an end.
This is how I will defeat the Lords of the Pit.
They know I am coming. They are taking great care to prepare for my arrival. They are performing their dark rituals, opening the Pit itself to invite me into its dripping maw. Tempting me inside, eager to snap shut and devour me whole. To digest my being and steal my power. The invitation to their door was a trap by design, but I have my own agenda. When the foul Phyrexian vapors clear, I do not intend to be the one left stunned and broken. For all of their preparation, for every pact sealed and contract signed, they will find themselves paying for their own downfall.
And I will walk away with their crown.
It is written in the aether. The blood of prophecy has foretold my coming, has declared my triumph. All of their might and the collective sale of their souls cannot undo what is destined to be done. But they are too proud, too loud, and too drunk on power to expect the depth of my scheming.
Their glorious tournament will be riddled with curses against my name. It will be rigged with the most profane magic, wards and weapons designed to turn my bones to dust on the field of battle. They will stop my ascent to their throne at any cost. Never has such a grand assembly of Demons focused so much power on so simple a task.
But none of these methods, none of this madness, will stop my newest disciple.
And all I have to do is get him out of this grave and into the Pentagram on the second floor. To get him stretched across the ritual circle and read the pages. All I have to do is raise the dead. And when he is once again dressed in flesh, all I have to do is show my new disciple the Way.
With All Eyes on Me, the many-headed gatekeeper will welcome us with glee, eager to play out their sadistic hand. But as they salivate over my skin, I will serve only as a distraction. And while they prepare the feast, while dress me in the trappings of their celebration, they will be blind to my brilliance. As they celebrate taking away what is rightfully mine, they will unwittingly hand it to my agent. My servants will slip through their ranks, and we will unburden them of their most precious treasure before spoiling their banquet.
For they cannot fathom the complexity of power that belongs to the Librarian and his Devoted.
It is only a matter of time, but I will claim the trophy of the Oldschool Players Ball.
So I dig.
At long last, I hear the familiar ring of shovel against polished coffin lid. Soon the real work will begin.
The body is on the floor of the Library just before dawn. As the sun rises, so will my minion. It is a simple matter of reciting the incantation. Of penning the words that cannot be spoken. Of unleashing the blood and enslaving the aether. Necromancy is a lost art, and tonight I am painting a portrait of an unassuming young man from Cleveland.
We will call him Steve.
Assemble the Coven Part Two
The tales of a Northern Paladin dispatching villains throughout the suburbs of Detroit were not lost to my ears. The imps and minor devils were fleeing south, desperate to escape his reach. The initiates of the Ebon Hand were rallying behind the order to save themselves from certain demise, and the bodies of thrulls and ghouls littered the streets in a macabre display of dispensed justice.
As chance would have it, this Hammer of the Gods was an old associate, greatly indebted to me for assistance provided when he was known by another name and engrossed in a different line of work.
So I followed the trail of destruction and found Chad standing atop a heap of blackened, smoldering bone and sinew. He was drenched in the blood and ichor of slaughtered foes. I was not surprised to find him basking in the glory of his personal crusade. But I was startled to find him speaking to Brother Andrew, the first and most devoted of my disciples. I was bewildered that these two unlikely companions would be working side by side.
This seemingly fortunate coincidence was far too convenient to not rouse my superstition. I nearly choked on my distrust, but after a moment I cleared my head and remembered my task. With Steve the Ghoul at my side, I approached the pair and kept a close eye on their weapons. It was important to ensure that neither of them found a reason to look too closely at my new cohort as the scenario unfolded.
They were surprised to see me.
So I gave the illusion of a chance encounter. My query about their work was met by Chad’s enthusiasm about cleansing the land of the unholy. I fed his righteousness, and as his zeal peaked I mentioned the quest that I was preparing to take. Perhaps it was divine intervention and not just a coincidence that our paths crossed when I was on my way to the Unholy Realm of Chicago, to battle the most vile band of villains ever assembled.
Chad could not contain his excitement to take his crusade to the precipice of the Pit, to shed the blood of the Lords on their own turf. To participate in their most vile and decadent tournament, in one of the largest gatherings of fiends of the year, was more than he ever could have hoped for. He was so grateful to join my endeavor that he did not dig into the deeper, darker nature of what was taking place.
He did not want to know what I was doing. He just wanted to slay demons. He did not concern himself with the Abomination that was Steve, so there was no need to answer uncomfortable questions. Brother Andrew was so nervous about concealing his own secrets that he never thought to question what was really transpiring.
We parted ways to prepare for the journey, which would begin at sunset and carry us into the bleak hours of night. In the cover of darkness we would arrive at the Gates of the City. It would not go unnoticed. Though we would cross the threshold without confrontation, we would not do so without witnesses.
Into the Pit Part One
The drive through the night was lighthearted. The honorary crew of Disciples of the Library were bonding while protecting their secrets. With each of them desperate to hide something, none of them pressed the others. They were united by a common enemy, and inspired by a shared lust for victory.
None of them understood the game being played. None of them knew the stakes. They would carry out my plan, never realizing their roles in the greater workings of such an elaborate conspiracy. To them, this was an unassuming trip into hell, to party in the pit and preach the end time message to an army of devils on their own turf.
It was better that they did not know the risk. By not understanding the grander scheme, they could not dread the cost of defeat. Fear is the Mind Killer. They could not tremble at thoughts they did not know to think. I kept them in the dark to keep them safe, to deliver them to the end of this tribulation intact. It was part of the sacred rite that I must bring back from the pit all of the entities that I took in with me.
So they ventured by my side sheltered by the illusions of their world. After hours of conversation, monotonous driving, and the mundane trappings of booking lodging in the realm of mortals, we settled in to the finest creature comforts that could be dredged up at the last minute. It was needless luxury, but we were concerned little with the cost as we consumed round after round of late night shots of whiskey. With each glass, the battle ahead seemed easier. Victory felt inevitable.
So we venture out sheltered by the illusions of their world. Hours of conversation as we drive towards the setting sun. Late night shots of whiskey. Practice games to perfect the ritual that we perform the next day. A mix of green mana and spore frog blood carry us into the deepest part of the night. And slumber delivers us to the dawn of the day when the deed must be done. When they would serve us no more, we retired to our rooms, but we did not give way to sleep.
Instead, fueled by Green Mana and a secret bottle from the luggage of Brother Andrew, we honed our weapons and sparred deeper and deeper into the night, until suddenly it was replaced with another morning. As the sun came up I finally laid down, and for a few hours, I was truly Dead But Dreaming.
Into the Pit Part Two
When I woke, I took a moment to examine my weapon and make sure it was in proper condition for the battle ahead:
This was my build for the Ball. I have since made some subtle adjustments.
I was ready to lay waste to my enemies.
I was ready to execute the most elaborate conspiracy against the Lords of the Pit ever concocted, on their home turf, in the midst of their biggest celebration of the year. But such deeds could not be done on an empty stomach or a clear head.
In sober eyes secrets are easy to find.
So the morning merriment was a mission to find shelter in substance. I could not afford to falter in the face of the enemy, and no matter how much Serum Powder and Green Mana it took to become lost in myself, I would be ready. In the comfort of the Maze of Ith, I was safe from all monsters.
So I drank my breakfast to celebrate, rounded up the Disciples, and we headed to the venue to start things off.
There was no shortage of villainous bastards lurking around the venue. It was a parade of debauchery, and they opened the doors just to lure these fiends off the streets with the promise of craft beer and a giant television playing one of the greatest movies of all time, Point Break.
A detailed and objective report of the event can be found over at Eternal Central. What you will find here is an account of the work of the Librarians of Leng. As such, it is far from traditional tournament coverage.
As I lingered among the Lords on their home turf, they showed me the courtesy that custom demanded and watched my every move, trying to discern my motives. They made numerous attempts to loosen my tongue with gifts of beer, but the more I drank the less I shared. As I gradually descended into gibbering madness, they gave up on gleaning information and did their best to ensure that I was stopped.
They were not off to a good start.
The gatekeeper, the one that was supposed to stop me before I set off on my path, was so overwhelmed with fear that he did not show to face me. The only vacant chair in the room was the one belonging to my first opponent. At this rate, they would be better off just handing me the trophy, but I made light of the moment and found myself prowling about the room, a beer in each hand, seeking out the action going on around me.
I immediately found Brother Andrew. He was smashing his skull against the Leader of The Knights TAPlar Mike Lupo. Unfortunately for my disciple, the fiend across the table had some surprises in store.
Brother Andrew Reads Shaharazad
But fortune smiled upon him, and despite the obstacles thrown in front of him, he defeated the Lich and soon joined me for another round of multiple beers. We checked in on Chad the Northern Paladin and Steve the Ghoul, and found that the entire Order was victorious.
The Lords were going to have to step up their game.
The battles and beers raged on throughout the afternoon. Things were hazy at the best of times, and trying to reconstruct the events as they took place is a fool’s quest. So rather than drone on a completely fictitious recounting, I will share some moments from the swiss rounds.
Everything from Merfolk to Thallids, the ways in which these deviant fuckers were trying to kill each other was not lacking in creativity. Somehow, the staff of this Temple in the Pit did not slow down, which meant the Lords and their fearless rivals, self included, were endlessly consuming beers. It is a wonder any of us could stand, let alone find each other to fight.
Attacking a Lord of the Pit with a Lord of the Pit was a high point of the day, even if the monster killed my bird and let me die at the hands of my own reckless summoning. He would be one of the two that defeated me throughout the day, and he would go deep into the event after tasting my blood while celebrating his victory.
Do not be fooled by the Power of my Top Hat. The well dressed fiend behind me was killing people with Thallids.
When the Swiss rounds came to an End, I fell short of battling it out in Top 8, finishing 4-2 in 13th place. It was a valiant effort, and I took the most glorious piece of the prize pool, a Thallid.
Into the Pit Part 3
The Lords felt triumphant, as Brother Andrew and Chad the Paladin (who fell to my hand) also finished with similar records. But, undetected and undeterred, Steve the Ghoul was in Top 8, poised to continue my work. With the power of the Necronomicon and the Magic of Leng narrating his every move, there was nothing that could stop him.
But three would try.
Steve won his top 8 match.
He would advance to face the Legendary Jaco.
Against all odds, the Power of Librarians would lead Steve to Victory.
And on to the finals.
Where he would face the Lord of the Pit that brought me my first defeat.
He would avenge me and at the same time fulfill the Prophecy.
Deep into the Night, when the smoke cleared, The last of the Lords would fall to the hands of a Librarian. It was foretold. And now it had come to pass.
With the Prophecy fulfilled and the treasure of the Pit securely in our possession, the Librarians left the scene of the most elaborate crime against a rival Oldschool gang in MTG History, and headed off to a private celebration.
To protect the reputation of a certain Northern Paladin, the details of that celebration must be left untold. Perhaps it is for the better, some stories should not be committed to written word. After all, it is not what you know, it is what you can prove. And without a confession, without a body, you have no crime.
The following day we returned to Michigan, and the strain of so much time with the High Priest of Leng had finally reached its breaking point for the Northern Paladin. We parted ways, and Brother Andrew was quick to scurry off before I could inquire about his work with the Holy Warrior. That left me with Steve the Ghoul.
I could not return him to the grave, so I opted to set him free. I knew he would return to his family, remembering nothing of his death or resurrection. My only regret was not being their to witness the chaos of his return unfold, but in my old age I can no longer be in all places at all times. Instead, I returned to the Library, where I placed the Necronomicon back on its pedestal.
And after, with the Order of Things restored and the Prophecy completed, I did what I wanted to do above all other things. I fell asleep.
This has been another adventure in the MTG Underground with the Librarian of Leng. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Spread the Word however you can.
Love Not Law.