would not be a golem that begged hacking. She had her doubts as to whether she could match Karn, but she was not going to let him walk from the room with the black oil septic in his body. She had seen too much of Phyrexia to allow that.

If her sword broke on Karn, then she would stave in his face with her fist. If her fist broke upon him, then she would use her teeth. If her teeth were not up to the task, then the devils of Zarnic take him!

Karn’s eyes snapped open.

Elspeth squared her shoulders and stepped forward. “If this starts to go badly,” Elspeth said to the fleshling, “waste no time fleeing this room. Make for the settlement if you can. Do not waste time thinking to help me. This is the best place for me. Your people will need leading, and you are the person to do this.”

The fleshling looked over at the huge door. There was a howl and the knocking of hundreds of metal feet on metal, and a group of Phyrexians surged into the door.

Karn rolled over and stood. The silver golem loomed taller than Elspeth. He looked down at her with dilated, metallic irises. The Phyrexians pushed through the door, wheezing.

“Venser, the artificer, has given you his heart,” Elspeth sang out loudly. “What will you do with it, golem?” If Elspeth was nervous in the least, the fleshling did not hear it in her voice, which had a tone as though she was challenging an opponent to a tourney joust.

Karn put his arms out wide. Electric jags licked from arm to arm. “My dreams have been grim of late,” he said. “My memories are as flashes of lightning. I dreamed of a throne that clung to my spine, of black blood in my eye, of the plane wrought by my hand pried from me by a tin-toy empire.”

Elspeth turned to look behind. More Phyrexians had pushed their stinking way into the doorway. Hundreds stood hunched and dripping at the end of the room. She thought for a moment that she saw Glissa, but a moment later it was just another elf Phyrexian.

Karn’s eye fell on the Phyrexians as well. “These dreams anger me,” he said. He brought his arms down and the charge arcing between his fists branched out, traveling the distance of the room and striking one Phyrexian before jumping to all the others. They lit brightly for a moment before falling to the floor, smoking.

Karn looked back down at Elspeth and the fleshling, then down at Venser’s dented helmet which lay next to his great foot. “And I grieve greatly that my friend Venser is no more.”

Elspeth pointed the tip of her blade at Venser’s body. “There is his body,” she said. “What will you do with it?”

Karn looked from Venser’s helmet to his body. “He will be wed with fire and made free. I will take him with me when I leave.”

“Where will you go?” Elspeth said.

“I have traveled the planar byways spreading sickness. Now I must clean what I have dirtied. This is what must happen.”

Karn started walking toward the doorway. His every step made the floor jiggle. More Phyrexians were collecting around the doorway, behind the piles of their dead comrades. Lightning crackled down Karn’s bicep and jumped to one of their heads and branched. In a moment all of the Phyrexians lay smoking next to the others.

Karn stopped and turned. “I will collect Venser’s body later when I have cleaned as much of this vermin as I can find.” Karn sighed.

Elspeth glanced over at the golem and then back to Venser’s body. “Don’t wait too long, it’s warm down here. You will not enjoy your trip with him if you wait too long.”

But Karn had already turned his back. He stepped through the Phyrexian bodies and around some huge juggernauts bunched and smoking on the other side of the door.

“You will never be able to clear Mirrodin of Phyrexians,” Elspeth said.

“I will kill as many as I may,” Karn said as he walked. “But you are right. I will not be able to kill them all, I fear. You must all do your part.”

“I will lead my people against the Phyrexians,” the fleshling said. “There were Mirrans in the settlement we visited, but we should find more hiding.”

Koth was quiet where he had propped himself against the wall.

“We will find all who wish to stand for their homes and fight this enemy,” the fleshling said.

“Good and evil, there is never one without the other,” Karn said. He stopped and gazed around the darkened corridor. “I forged this place when I was young. Bird and beast and flower were worrisome to me then. So I made this place where death was but a coincidence.”

“Now it is a place of death, old machine,” Koth said. He struggled to his feet and spat on the floor. “But the fleshling and I will clear this and all of Mirrodin of the scourge.”

Elspeth could feel the heat radiating off of Koth. As she watched, slits of cherry red split his sides. His eyes began to take on the same rosy hue.

Karn continued speaking. “All has passed like rain on the fields, like wind in the mountain tops. My days seem gone with the sun at its set. But not yet! I have too much to put right.” He walked faster, so the companions had to scramble to keep up.

“Are we ready for battle?” Karn said, striding even faster. “I have slept too long. Mirrodin has carried my pride and also my guilt. You all have fought my battles. Now, friends, we shall show these beasts of meat and metal the true nature of their Father of Machines.”

“We will make this right,” Koth said. He stood next to Venser’s dented helmet. But the others had left, and his words went unheard in the gathering darkness.

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