A tale of Dominia

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Volrath's stronghold hung suspended by two massive spans of stone within a great hollow mountain. The Weatherlight emerged from a tunnel, silently drifting past a series of disjointed buildings that linked the stronghold to the mountain's inner wall. As the ship glided to a stop, a fortress guard spotted it from a sheltered balcony. Mirri leaped from the ship over the balcony railing and clawed his throat before he can sound an alarm. Gerrard, close behind, took up the guard's sword to arm Sisay when they find her.

Crovax and Starke joined Gerrard and Mirri in the search for their captured comrades and the stolen pieces of the Legacy. Starke recommended they check the dungeons and Volrath's inner sanctum, the Dream Halls. En route, they encountered one of Volrath's twisted "experiments," which flees by shapeshifting into a winged angel.

Crovax snarled with fury, remembering how Volrath arranged the killing of his entire family and enslaved their angelic guardian, Selenia. He bolted after the shapeshifter and corners it in a large war room. When the search party reached them, Crovax had savagely torn the wings from the shapeshifter's malformed body and killed it. Gerrard ordered him back to the ship, but Crovax replied, "The Legacy may be your destiny, Gerrard, but Selenia is mine. Do not deny me this."

Crovax's intensity convinced Gerrard, but both men were disturbed by this violent outburst. Crovax reeled from the pain pounding in his forehead. The curse he had carried for so long was finally taking its toll, and Gerrard could do little to help his friend.

Outside the stronghold, the Skyshroud elves and the Vec had reached the Stronghold. As the Vec and elves were about to launch their attack, Eladamri, the Lord of Leaves, gave his speech before attacking. "There are times when destiny calls forth a people and demands an action. Now is the time. We are the people. This is our action. Charge!"

A great cry went out, and countless elves and Vec soldiers charged up the mountain. Their fury and passion hid the fact that they were horribly outnumbered. Alongside the Kor and the Dal, they lay siege to the Stronghold.

Gerrard quickly became absorbed with the vast war room. At its center was a detailed three-dimensional map, which Gerrard recognized as an aerial view of the Domains of Dominaria. A black shifting wave crossed the Domains, changing their texture. This was not just a map, Gerrard realized, but an invasion plan.

Suddenly a projected image of Volrath appeared, his voice booming, "All forces report to invasion stations at once. Greven il-Vec, return to the Predator." The apparition faded, but Gerrard was troubled: Volrath's voice was one from his own past. Gerrard suggested that they should get moving, not realizing that Volrath was watching their every step.

Ascending into the fortress, the party headed toward the prison labs, where Starke believed they would find Sisay and the others. They found a narrow bridge that crossed into the prison tower and, suspiciously, didn't appear to be guarded. When Gerrard tested it, the bridge exploded into life, forming ropes and ties to capture any who crossed over it. Frustration building, he stalked back into the towers behind them and returned bearing the dismembered body of the shapeshifter Crovax had killed. Gerrard threw the corpse onto the bridge, which promptly attacked and engulfed it. The group ran across while the bridge was "distracted," dodging its snares before safely reaching the other side.

Inside the prison tower, they found Karn nearly catatonic with emotional agony. His cell was filled with moggs - the brutish goblins of Rath - and its floor continuously undulated, causing him to stumble into the creatures and crush them. When Gerrard finally opened the cell door, the surviving moggs fled into the darkness.

Gerrard now knew beyond doubt who Volrath is. Only one person would know to torment Karn by forcing him to break his vow never to injure or kill other beings.

They found Tahngarth in another cell, one designed to slowly mutate its prisoner. The minotaur had been horribly disfigured, and he moaned in anguished fury for his ruined appearance. Gerrard handed Tahngarth the sword taken from the guard Mirri killed. "This is who you are," he told Tahngarth. "Not your horns, not your bones; your sword." Tahngarth gratefully accepted the weapon.

The band hurriedly searched the rest of the cells for Sisay and Starke's daughter, Takara, but they found only the twisted results of Volrath's experiments. In a barren laboratory, they finally found Sisay imprisoned in a sealed glass cylinder. Gerrard wanted to repay the debt of loyalty to his friend, but feared that simply breaking the glass to open the cylinder could cause her harm. After an unsuccessful search for a release method, though, he reluctantly fell back on brute force to free her.

Sisay tumbled out, disoriented. But before Gerrard could take her outstretched hand, Mirri hissed and slashed it open. "Sisay" shrieked and shapeshifted into a mass of biting tentacles, which quickly escaped. Shaken, but grateful for Mirri's keen sense of smell, the search party pressed on to the Dream Halls.

As they climbed higher and stepped onto a new bridge, a blur from above hurtled towards Crovax - Selenia. Mirri instinctively leaped forward; the dark angel slashed open Mirri's abdomen and prepared to deliver the death blow. As Mirri fell, horribly wounded, Crovax regained his senses and defended himself against Selenia. Crovax wildly flailed his sword at Selenia, weeping for all he has lost. She also sobbed as she defends herself, then suddenly froze, deliberately allowing one of Crovax's wild swings to strike home. She exploded in a burst of black-and-white mana that swirled around Crovax and forced its way into his body. Selenia's destiny is fulfilled: Crovax's curse was set in motion, and he was ultimately condemned for killing all that he loved.

Crovax felt his blood run cold as he collapsed onto Selenia's sword. He grew pale as death - but his breathing continued, as fangs pushed their way through his gums.

Gerrard decided that Karn and Tahngarth must take Mirri and Crovax to the ship and remain there, while he and Starke continued to search for Sisay and Takara. Starke's directions and the minotaur's innate abilities should get them safely back.

Karn and Tahngarth worked their way to the Weatherlight. Karn paused - he sensed the Legacy, which could only mean that the pieces were assembled and close by. This was far too important to leave behind, and so the two separated: Tahngarth carried Mirri and Crovax to the ship, and Karn followed the pull of the Legacy.

Karn found the artifacts, but they were guarded by the sliver queen, a gargantuan beast that constantly generated myriad "baby" slivers. She reared up to attack, but he pointed to the Legacy and told her that they were part of him, just as the slivers were part of her. He demonstrates how the pieces fit inside him; she understood, and responded by summoning her slivers back to her body. She allowed Karn to reclaim the Legacy.

Meanwhile, Starke explained to Gerrard that the quickest way to reach the Dream Halls was through a nearby overgrown, open-air garden. But as soon as they reached the garden, a great shadow appeared overhead and Gerrard dragged Starke under a large plant. They stared up at the Predator as it sails past, helmed by Greven il-Vec. Gerrard cautions Starke not to move in case Greven was searching for them. Then came a sudden thunderous barrage of cannon fire close by.

As they prepared to move on, a horde of spikes - vicious, sluglike creatures - fell from above to attack the pair. Gerrard beat the spikes back into the grass, but lost track of Starke. After a quick search, he found Starke gagged and immobilized by a tangle of bloodsucking vines which had come to life. Gerrard cut the weakened Starke free and they escaped from the predatory garden.

Deeper in the stronghold, they found that the tower containing the Dream Halls was covered with a series of intertwining balconies, but had no main entrance. The only way in seemed to be through the balconies. Starke watches nervously as Gerrard struggled to climb the tower's roiling flowstone exterior to reach the upper floor.

Gerrard reaches the top and pulled himself inside. There, he was bombarded by spectacular visions that are amazing - and horrifying. The Dream Halls served as a living museum for all the dreams and nightmares Volrath had ever had. Gerrard saw himself and Vuel, his blood brother, as boys at Vuel's rite of passage. Young Gerrard intervened to save Vuel's life, costing Vuel his ascension to sidar of the warclan. He saw Vuel's father, Sidar Kondo, only to witness the sidar's horrible death as Vuel and his forces destroyed the warclan.

In another dream, awful shapes combined to make one dark presence that transformed and corrupted Vuel, bestowing great powers upon him. Here, among Volrath's dreams, Gerrard at last understands that Vuel wanted his destiny with the warclan ... and was forced to trade it for this one.

Volrath's disembodied voice echoed through the chamber. The ghosts of the past were joined by images of Volrath's dreams for the future: he and his dark armies conquering the lands and inhabitants of Dominaria, Gerrard tortured at his feet. Gerrard calls Volrath's true name: Vuel, son of the sidar who raised them both; the thief who stole Gerrard's Legacy.

Volrath's voice bitterly replied that Gerrard was unworthy of the clan. His own parents left him the Legacy, and he dishonored their gift by abandoning it, refusing even to wear the hourglass pendant they valued so highly. Gerrard coolly told Volrath that he deliberately left the pendant behind, knowing that it was undoubtedly a secondary target in Volrath's scheme.

Volrath taunted him: it would have been much harder to capture Gerrard if he'd brought it. Volrath casually vowed to recover the pendant and exploit its power ... and promised that Gerrard would divulge its location in exchange for a quick death.

Volrath went on to mock Gerrard's predictability: he knew Gerrard would come for Sisay, not out of loyalty, but because his pride would not allow anything to be taken from him. Everything Gerrard had done from the moment he set foot in Rath had been anticipated and countered. Gerrard felt the fury rise in him as at last he faced his enemy.

At last, Volrath himself appeared, wearing a glowing helmet. Just then, Starke emerged from the dream visions, his dagger raised high, and plunged it into Volrath's back. Unaffected, Volrath whirled, flinging his former friend and mentor from him. He casually pulled the weapon free and threwit down. There was a trickle of blood, then the wound closed over.

Volrath faced Gerrard again and reminded him of everything that Gerrard had cost him ... and of everything that Gerrard would yet lose. Gerrard moves to attack, but Volrath has no intention of fighting one-on-one. As Volrath retreated into the recesses of the Dream Halls, Gerrard was set upon by two sword-wielding figures: a red-haired woman and Sisay. Their eyes glowed with the same pale energy as Volrath's helmet. Gerrard moves to strike down the red-haired warrior - but Starke cried out that she is his daughter, Takara. She slashed out with her sword, crossing her father's eyes with its tip and blinding him. Starke crumbled.

Gerrard realized he'd have to disarm Takara while simultaneously dealing with Sisay, who was formidable. He quickly maneuvered Takara backwards, tripping her over Starke. As Takara went down, Sisay rushed Gerrard to deliver a killing stroke. He parried, overbalanced her, and landed a solid blow on her forehead with the pommel of his sword. Stunned, Sisay dropped to the floor. Gerrard charged out of the room after Volrath.

He finally confronted Volrath at the far end of the chamber, where stairs descended to the bridges below. As they began to battle, Tahngarth roared up the stairs, sword in hand, to aid his friend and seek revenge for his torture. Together, Gerrard and Tahngarth pressed their advantage against the evincar. Gerrard cleaved Volrath's helmet with an overhand blow that sent the villain stumbling. Tahngarth bellows in triumph as Volrath fell, but even as Gerrard struck the fatal blow, he saw fresh scratch marks on Volrath's hand - and realized the truth. The body quickly changed into the shapeshifter that Mirri clawed in the laboratory.

Gerrard was furious. He demanded to know how Tahngarth got there. Tahngarth explained that he tracked Gerrard and Starke to this tower. A doorway opened briefly - possibly an escape route for Volrath - and he jumped through. Gerrard picks up Volrath's shattered helmet and insisted that they hunt for the evincar, but Tahngarth emphatically says no - they came to rescue Sisay. Gerrard reluctantly led him back to the others, his rage at Volrath barely contained.

After Volrath's retreat, Sisay and Takara were freed from the evincar's control, but Takara's reunion with her father was bittersweet. Gerrard and Tahngarth entered the Dream Halls to find that Takara bandaging her father's eyes. The group collects itself, and Sisay regained consciousness. Recognizing Starke as the traitor who caused her capture, Sisay angrily advances on him. Takara stepped between Sisay and her wounded father to defend him, but Gerrard quickly quelled the conflict: they must work together, as a team, or they would never get out of the stronghold alive.

Somewhere below, the sounds of warfare howled. From deep within the stronghold, Volrath's voice booms, echoing through its halls. "All forces, engage in invasion response tactics. Destroy our enemies! Destroy our enemies!" Gerrard and his friends, joined at last by Sisay, now faced the daunting challenge of escaping as Volrath's forces closed in on them.

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