By Doug Beyer A tale of Ravnica

Ral Zarek stung with the humiliation...

... of announcing Niv-Mizzet’s race through the maze, an invitation he sorely lamented having to extend. The other guilds didn’t deserve the barest whiff of information about his project. But at least now he could finally, officially run the maze for his guild, and complete it once and for all. He had a plan to run the routes in unpredictable ways, traversing the ten gates with a series of explosive maneuvers shrouded by a covering fire of storm magic and cyclops brutes. There would be teams of rival runners trying to beat him, and to thwart them he planned for a series of lightning barriers. The lightning barriers would not only protect him, but also hinder others as they tried to progress through the gates. He walked swiftly down into the main boiler lab, where the other experimenter-mages had said he could find his guildmaster.

He elbowed his way past a team of Izzet researchers and found the dragon. All eyes were turned to the device in the center of the room. The drive wheel of a great steam-driven dynamo rotated into a pit set in the floor, and suspended at its center was a weird: a living elemental composed of the fusion of clashing elements. The weird was shaped like a tall and athletic human, and made of electrified ice, a combination Ral had never seen before. Steam rose from its glistening-cold body as the spokes of the dynamo wheel rotated around it, and blue lightning sizzled from its arms and legs. Its head rested on its chest, its eyes blank, and it was naked of any Izzet gauntlets or armor.

Ral rushed over to the dragon’s side. "Guildmaster!" said Ral. "I wanted to go over with you my plans for running the maze. It involves a series of-"

"Ah, good," puffed Niv-Mizzet, barely glancing at Ral. "Yes. Kindly tell Melek and his handlers all about it."

"Melek? Who is Melek?"

"Oh, had you not met him?" asked Niv-Mizzet. The dragon waved with his claw at the elemental being suspended in the dynamo. "May I present Melek, the official Izzet maze-runner. My team of elementalists, chemisters, mindcrafters, and energy-binding specialists have manufactured him specifically to run the maze. They’ve taken into account everything you’ve learned, and they’ve built that understanding directly into Melek here."

Ral laughed nervously. "What? I don’t understand."

"He’s made via an experimental synthesis of mana-dynamical principles."

"No, no, I see that," said Ral, the bright flashes of Melek’s icy body reflecting in his eyes. "I just thought I would be the choice."

"Oh, no, of course not," said the dragon. "Do you have a transdynamic mana core? Is your skin made from conductive, self-repairing frost?"

"But you don’t even know all the routes I took. You weren’t there to see all the meticulous research I did."

"Your associate told me all I needed to know."

Skreeg the goblin emerged from behind one of the other Izzet mages. He waved sheepishly.

Wine-colored electricity crackled up Ral’s spine. "Great Firemind ... please. I am the choice. I am the designated runner for our great Izzet League. I am your resource." He shook his hands emphatically, not seeing Niv-Mizzet raise his chest and rear back his head. "Any other choice would be misguided, wrongheaded, and entirely idiotic!"

Niv-Mizzet breathed fire in a sweeping arc over the ceiling. A cascade of heat washed down over Ral and the Izzet researchers, and the girders and steam pipes in the ceiling warped, melted, and caught fire.

Ral said nothing. His hands grabbed each other.

"Melek will be representing us in the race for the maze," said Niv-Mizzet, revealing his teeth on every syllable. "That is final. You may go and clear the promenade, Guildmage Zarek, and ready the starting place for the competitors."

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