The Antiquities War

This is the story of Urza and Mishra, brothers from Argive.
Urza was the older brother, quiet and clever
While Mishra was rash and hot-headed.
With both parents in the land of the dead,
The two brothers made the journey to the school of Tocasia.

The language of The Antiquities War is very compact, like the language of myth. We are told only what is important and left to uncover the meaning for ourselves. The Story of Urza and Mishra, the fourth of a five-part cycle, was written in the high Argivian “pictoglyph” language and takes the traditional form of sixty five-line stanzas which are, in turn, further divided into groups of five “facets.” We will examine this gem symbolism in greater detail as our study progresses.

The school of Tocasia was in the land of Argive.
Urza and Mishra lived for many years at her school,
Where they studied the secrets of a lost race.
One day, after the brothers had learned much from Tocasia,
They found treasure buried beneath the surface of things.

One of the definitions of the phrase, “beneath the surface of things,” in high Argivian is the “world of the senses.” In the thinking of the old Argivian scholars, the world of the senses is an “outer world" contrasting with the "inner world” of the soul. The reader should examine how this symbolic process relates to his own “inner world,” where jewels may still await discovery.

When the brothers returned from the cave of Koilos
Each hid his stone from his brother
Mishra’s stone was called the weakstone
The weakstone devoured the energy from things
As darkness devours light.

In the first stanza of the second facet, we’re told the name given to the stone of power Mishra brought back from the cave of Koilos. The weakstone’s characteristic is to draw the energy from objects. Urza’s stone, the mightstone, possessed the opposite characteristic.

The individual stones are halves of a complete whole, each incomplete without the other. As with the stones, so with the brothers. The brothers were separated by their obsessions and greed. They only thought of their own desires, not the balance of the whole.

One day, the wise Tocasia declared a contest
To determine which brother would possess both stones
Tocasia was killed in the struggle
The brothers buried her in the rubble of her school
And went their separate ways

Today we can only speculate about the exact nature of the contest Tocasia arranged between the two brothers. The narrative is mute regarding the details, except that the victor would possess both stones. Tocasia was killed as a result of the contest and history teaches us that the mightstone remained with Urza and the weakstone with Mishra.

We know that following the death of Tocasia, the brothers chose different paths – paths that would take them in very different directions. But these paths would continue to cross.

Urza went from the desert to the city of Kroog
Where the people celebrated the birthday of the princess
And the king declared a contest of strength
Urza, not strong of limb
Created an artifact that was

This is the first reference to the artifact that would later be called Urza’s Avenger.

And, as we know, the princess of Kroog referred to in the preceding stanza is none other than Kayla Bin-Kroog, the author of The Story of Urza and Mishra. As we shall see throughout the text, Kayla breaks with the canons of Argivian poetry and never refers to herself in the first person. She also does not present herself in a wholly-flattering light. This trait of honesty gives the reader a realistic image of Kayla’s life with Urza.

Urza returned on the day of the contest
All the other contestants went first, and failed
The king allowed Urza his chance
Urza displayed the artifact made with his hands
And it was stronger than ten men

The text follows a line of reasoning from classical Argivian scholasticism – if a man uses a tool to accomplish a job, it is not the tool that should be praised, but the man intelligent enough to use the tool.

This logic leads us to the conclusion that because Urza’s tool was stronger than ten men, Urza himself – by creating and using the tool – was also stronger than ten men. This made him the strongest man in Argive and a worthy husband for the princess.

Mishra traveled deep into the western desert
Where he was taken captive by Fallaji nomads
One night, under the cold night sky, Mishra dreamed
In his dream, Mishra went to another world
And returned with a strange beast

This is one of the more puzzling stanzas in the poem as it contains two mysteries. Little is known about the Fallaji, as their records consist of knotted cords which defy analysis. All we know is that they formed loosely-related tribes, arranged in a hierarchy.

Mishra’s dream is significant – and mysterious – because it is our first indication that Mishra was able to travel between planes. How he accomplished this is unknown, but we can infer that a planeswalking spark was fanned to life by his encounter with the weakstone.

Years went by and the brothers walked separate paths
Mishra stayed with the Fallaji, where he had great power
Urza became artificer of Kroog, with many apprentices
Urza’s work was everything to him
He had no concern for those around him, even his wife

In this text, we learn that Kayla felt ignored by Urza, possibly even jealous of his work. We will see that over time these feelings will drive Kayla in a dangerous direction.

In this stanza we also see how the paths of Mishra and Urza diverged during this phase of their lives. Mishra was able to forge a trading federation among the various Fallaji tribes. Urza, under the patronage of the king of Kroog, developed something akin to a guild structure, wherein apprentices labored for Urza in exchange for an education.

Mishra was an outsider among the Fallaji
Until a visitor came
A woman, cool and beautiful like ice in the hot desert sun
The woman was named Ashnod
And her heart was as cold as her icy eyes

The woman Ashnod is very mysterious. The text gives us little information about her, except that she appeared in Mishra’s camp. However, we are told that she is icy and cold, in sharp contrast from the heat of the western desert.

If Mishra is a hot, feeling character, he is balanced by the cold Ashnod – the attraction of opposites. However, when such opposite forces come together, there can be great misery.

Years passed until the paths of the brothers crossed again
The lord of Korliss called a conference
And the nobles of the great houses all were in attendance
Urza came with the king of Kroog
And Mishra represented the Fallaji

Throughout Argivian history, Korliss had always been a neutral territory, so it was natural that a trading conference would be held there. Records of the conference still exist. The purpose of the conference was to address trading issues raised by Mishra’s confederation of the Fallaji tribes into a unified trading bloc.

The merchants and nobles of the Argivian city states needed the ancient Thran technology and power crystals only found in the western desert. The nobles chafed under the Fallaji terms, and the time had come for desperate action.

The conference quickly turned to bickering
The king of Kroog and Mishra argued
The king of Kroog was treacherous
And attacked the conference with ornithopters
They rained death from the sky, killing many

Kayla lays the blame of the attack on the conference of Korliss at the feet of her father. This attack was a decisive event in the war between the brothers. Without this provocation, their personal struggle might never have erupted into open conflict.

However, the attack by the king of Kroog forced all the parties involved in the conference to choose sides. The Argivian city-states, linked by generations of arranged marriages and economic ties, found themselves face-to-face with the newly-confederated tribes of the Fallaji. The consequences of "The Attack at Korliss" changed the face of Argive for hundreds of generations.

At Korliss, the brothers met again
And pitted the forces of the mightstone and weakstone
Against each other
But the weakstone withheld its power from Mishra
And the paths of the brothers diverged once more

The text is very specific when it says that the weakstone withheld its power from Mishra. This action implies purpose, almost as if the weakstone possessed a kind of volition – possibly even intelligence.

If we reflect on the concept of the stone of power hidden beneath “the surface of things” from the previous facet, we are challenged to consider that this “inner world” has an intelligence and purpose of its own, even if it makes no sense to the logic of the “outer world.” We will see this intelligence of the stones of power, of the inner life, become more pronounced as The Story of Urza and Mishra continues.

Urza, in charge of the forces of Kroog,
Followed Mishra and the Fallaji into the western desert
There, they found that the Fallaji were cunning opponents
The Fallaji used the desert as a weapon
To kill Urza and the soldiers of Kroog

Kayla shows a keen understanding of the Fallaji strategy at the beginning of the conflict. By luring the Kroog forces deeper into the western desert, the Fallaji accomplished two things: first, the desert would take its toll on the Kroog forces; second, by pursuing the Fallaji nomads into the desert, the city of Kroog would be left underprotected. Even though Kroog had the advantage of air power, the ornithopters of this time had only a short range and needed constant repair due to the fine dust of the desert.

This course of action will provide the Fallaji a significant strategic advantage in the battle of Kroog.

The western desert was an ocean of sand
And only the Fallaji knew its hidden depths
But there were some mysteries in the desert
That even the Fallaji did not understand
Even though long dead, the Thran guarded their secrets

We saw in the previous facet that Mishra and Urza had been initiated to the secrets of the Thran in the cave of Koilos. However, when the Thran unlocked the door of understanding, they were destroyed by what they found within.

The secrets of the inner world are jealously guarded. Those unprepared for what they find should not begin the quest.

Mishra and Ashnod journeyed to the cave of Koilos
The birthplace of the mightstone and weakstone
In this place of power
The weakstone opened a door
To another world

Although there are other ancient narratives that could be interpreted as travel between planes – such as The Journey of Morath or Ganly’s Journals – none are as clear and direct as this section in The Story of Urza and Mishra.

Mishra stepped through the doorway
There, he tamed strange beasts
And faced an enemy with a heart as black as pitch
Mishra battled the demon
And returned to this world

This stanza describes Mishra’s journey to the plane of Phyrexia, a hideous hell of mechanical beasts and demons. Any planeswalker determined to travel to the domain of Phyrexia is urged to take the most extreme measures of caution. Like the maps of old, this plane should be marked “Here abide monsters.”

The text relates that Mishra tamed strange beasts and met an enemy with a black heart. These references will be explored further in the following stanza.

But Mishra did not return alone
He was followed by mechanical beasts
With jaws of steel and eyes of fire
And a black heart followed Mishra’s every step
Like a shadow of doom

The historical record corroborates that the beasts referred to in the last two stanzas of this facet are the dragon engines of the Fallaji, instrumental in the battle of Kroog.

A more cryptic reference, however, is the “black heart” and “shadow of doom” from the final lines. There is consensus among scholars that the enemy with a “heart as black as pitch” in the second to the last stanza refers to a Phyrexian demon.

Some believe that a demon from Phyrexia entered Terisiare through the gate in the cave of Koilos, and that this demon plagued Mishra like a cursed shadow. Others conclude that no “real” demon followed Mishra – instead, the shadow is a symbol of the dark fate that Mishra brought on himself by his greed and lust for power.

A heart of fire and steel returned to Argive,
Hardened in the forge of the western desert.
Between battles with Mishra, Urza came home to Kroog—
But even there, Urza’s soul knew no peace.
Urza was alone.

The first stanza of the fifth facet refers to a point about one year after the conference at Korliss. After a number of early (and very bloody) battles, the territories of the two brothers had stabilized – with Urza and his allies in control of the greater part of the Argivian region and the confederated tribes of the Fallaji in control of the bordering areas of the western desert. During this time, Mishra’s Fallaji forces raided Argivian outposts and Urza launched ornithopter sorties from Kroog. Urza’s dominance in the air was a continuous threat to the Fallaji, and they moved their camps often to avoid attack.

In the western desert,
The secrets of the past were born from the very womb
That gave birth to the mightstone and the weakstone.
The goddess of knowledge granted many gifts,
But the mysteries of the Thran were hidden in the cave of Koilos.

The exact nature of the “secrets of the past” in this stanza continue to elude scholars. However, if we look at the third stanza in the fourth facet, we are told that Mishra and Ashnod traveled to the cave of Koilos. There, the weakstone opened a gateway to another world – most assuredly the domain of Phyrexia – allowing Mishra and Ashnod to cross over. When Mishra and Ashnod returned, they were followed by the dragon engines. If we make the intuitive leap that the gateway to Phyrexia remained open, could not a denizen of this dark plane have entered the cave of Koilos? This certainly lends credence to the hypothesis that a Yogmoth demon was the dark heart that plagued Mishra.

The mightstone and weakstone, born in the cave of Koilos,
Were washed in sand and blood in the war between the brothers.
Mishra, who was very cunning, laid a trap for his brother.
Mishra’s dragon engines fell upon Urza and his men,
And Mishra crossed the sands to another destiny.
Mishra and his dragon engines crossed the sands
To destroy Urza and the king of Kroog.
Mishra did not hear the first cries of Urza’s son—
Mere whispers drowned out by the screams of the dying.
Mishra returned to Argive with mechanical beasts.

Although dragon engines were fearsome beasts, they were not strictly “mechanical” in the way Kayla Bin-Kroog uses the term here. In Phyrexia, the native plane of the dragon engines, the distinction between organic and artificial life is indistinct. Although judging from some of the remains of Mishra’s dragon engines uncovered in the deep desert, Mishra might have built copies of the Phyrexian creatures using materials at hand. Some of the remains suggest that he even built some with wheels. Generations after the war between Urza and Mishra, the cleric/scholar Jarsyl undertook numerous expeditions to Phyrexia in order to classify the creatures he found there, including a species of four-legged dragon engines. Although Jarsyl never returned from his final journey to Phyrexia, his Codex Phyrexia remains the cornerstone of our understanding of this inhospitable region.

The screams of the king of Kroog
Rose to heaven – while his seven souls went to their seven hells
After Mishra and his dragon engines destroyed the city of Kroog,
Urza returned to find his newborn son mutilated.
And then the shadow of doom fell upon Yotia.

Recent archeological excavations in the southern regions of Yotia have uncovered the ruins of Kroog. The city was buried under many layers of soil and sediment, which were pushed down from the north by glaciation in the great ice age. Evidence of intense heat was plainly evident on many of the ruins – the legacy of the dragon engines. Kroog was the first city, but certainly not the last, to be destroyed by the war between the brothers.

After Mishra destroyed the city of Kroog,
Years passed and Urza built a tower and hid it from the eyes of men.
In his tower, Urza worked for weeks without rest
To build a weapon that would kill his brother.
The battles between Urza and Mishra hardened Urza’s soul.

Although Urza built a number of towers and factory complexes throughout the region of Yotia, there is no definitive information about their actual location; most scholars believe that these industrial plants were located somewhere northeast of Kroog. Some of the more-fanciful speculation posits that Urza’s main tower did not exist in Terisiare at all, but at some nexus between planes. When certain conditions arise, according to this myth, the tower re-appears in Yotia – with Urza still in residence, still living after a hundred generations. Those who believe this ghost story still search for Urza’s tower, sure that they will find treasure beyond compare within its walls.

Mishra worked for years to build
A stronghold far from his brother and the city-states of Terisiare.
Here, the cold-eyed Ashnod fertilized artifacts with human flesh
Until she tore an abomination – the transmogrant—
From the very womb of the goddess of knowledge.

Although Urza’s tower continues to elude archeologists, Mishra’s stronghold was found in the Kher ridges. It was built on the foundation of a previously-existing structure – the school of Tocasia. In a recent dig at the site, the remains of a number of projectile weapons were found. Mishra’s stronghold was apparently quite safe from ornithopter attack, and its strategic position protected it from ground assault. Scattered all around the stronghold, many human bones were discovered. The bones showed evidence of many brutal surgical procedures. These were undoubtedly the bones of slaves and prisoners of war, victims of Ashnod’s atrocities.

Ashnod’s transmogrants, a fusion of man and machine, were terrifying weapons. A living specimen still exists beneath the museum at the college of Lat-Nam. The creature is so grotesque and unpredictable that it cannot be put on display. This incredibly old wretch, dating from the war between the brothers, is certainly no longer human. One can only wonder if this “abomination” still yearns for what Ashnod stole so long ago.

Far from the city-states of Terisiare—
Korliss and Sarinth – and the war between Urza and Mishra,
The brotherhood of Gix prayed for the souls of artifacts
And offered gifts to their lord of the machine,
Who was very cunning and laid a trap for Urza and Mishra.

The brotherhood of Gix no longer exists on Terisiare. Its abbey was destroyed and its members scattered following the battle of Teonacall. However, there are whispered reports that the brotherhood still maintains an abbey somewhere on another plane. It is also said that the priests of Yogmoth, more machine than man, can trace their genealogy to the monks of this order.

Urza offered gifts to the lord of Korliss—
Powerful mechanical men to protect the people of Korliss,
Who were frequently attacked by the Fallaji.
Urza’s Yotian soldiers were built to tell friend from foe,
And destroy the dragon engines of Mishra.
The dragon engines of Mishra attacked Korliss.
Urza fashioned the Yotian soldiers – and they were powerful,
But the Yotian soldiers could not see Ashnod’s transmogrants
Until the martyrs of Korliss sacrificed their lives,
And then their souls rose to heaven.

There is disagreement among scholars about how the sacrifice of the martyrs of Korliss rescued the city, or who these individuals actually were. All we know from the text is that the actions of the martyrs of Korliss rendered the transmogrants visible to the Yotian soldiers. At this point, we can safely assume that the Yotian soldiers were able to carry out their duty in defending the city, because the city still exists. The names of the martyrs have long since been lost, but their bravery is still celebrated in the Argivian tradition of Badzahar (although few today give any thought to the historical origins of the holiday).

Heaven sacrificed
A portion of its glory to bring the ivory tower into the world.
The tower gleamed in the sun, white as bleached bone.
Here, the Archimandrite was determined to find a way to halt
The battles between Urza and Mishra.

The meeting of the council at the ivory tower in the eastern rift of Terisiare marks the first gropings toward a knowledge of the workings of the inter-related forces of mana on Dominaria. Ironically, if it were not for the conflict between Urza and Mishra, this first step might never have been taken.

We know from other sources that the council, called by the Archimandrite of the ivory tower, was attended by a number of delegates, each representing various political, religious, and tribal affiliations present in Terisiare during the time of Urza and Mishra. Each of these different groups had their own unique way of looking at and explaining the world around them. The brotherhood of Gix, for example, believed in an afterlife for mechanical artifacts, while the tribes of the Yumok nations considered all contact with artifacts anathema. The various world-views represented by the delegates of this important council evolved, over the course of time, into our present understanding of mana and the nature of the multiverse.

The Archimandrite of the ivory tower,
Convened a council, but the delegates could find no solution
To the problem of the war between Urza and Mishra—
So emissaries from the council were sent to
The stronghold of Mishra.
Emissaries of the ivory tower were sent to Mishra.
They asked Mishra to meet with Urza in the ivory tower,
Where all drank from the well of peace.
Mishra killed the envoys, and no one
Prayed for their souls.
Emissaries were sent to the tower of Urza.
Although Urza was kinder to his guests than his brother,
He would not return with them to the council.
Urza refused to turn from his path of fate and his vow
To destroy Mishra.
Urza refused to return with the emissaries to the council.
Two moons passed before the ivory tower council convened again.
Since the brothers would not listen to the offer of the council,
The council decided that there was no choice but to take
The lives of Urza and Mishra.
The council of the ivory tower decided
To travel to the cave of Koilos to find a way to stop the brothers.
After seven years, the brotherhood of Gix opened a doorway to
Another world without the knowledge of
The Archimandrite of the ivory tower.

The text establishes that it took seven years for the brotherhood of Gix to mount their expedition to the cave of Koilos. If an archeologist of today were to actually find the cave of Koilos, there would certainly be no sign of Thran artifacts. All mechanical artifacts were removed by the brotherhood of Gix and incorporated into the technology of the order or used as sacrificial offerings to the dark forces who rule Phyrexia.

Without the knowledge of the council of the ivory tower,
Harbin, the son of Urza, grew to manhood.
Harbin went through the initiation of darkness and fire
And became a warrior-priest of Argive during
The war between Urza and Mishra.

The text refers to the complicated initiation rite of the Argivian warrior-priests, codified in the Hakara scrolls. After successful completion of the initiation ordeal, the young men were given swords (which represented their newly-forged souls) and were then trained in the use of the blades – a training of both body and spirit. If we look at the symbolic meaning of this stanza, we learn that the individual must pass through darkness and fire in order to temper the soul. Only a soul so prepared is ready to wield the stone of power from the inner world.

The council of the ivory tower
Fought with Mishra in the great desert.
Mishra struggled with his own black heart under the hot sun.
When Urza and his ornithopters joined the battle, many were
Killed and no one drank from the well of peace.
Urza and Mishra fought with the black heart in the desert.
The power of the mightstone combined with weakstone—
Each stone a destination on the road of fate—
Banished the black heart back to the world from which it came.
The path of fate was kinder to Urza than to Mishra.

Although the text does not give many details about the battle in the desert with the “black heart,” I believe that the brothers struggled with a Phyrexian demon that might have entered Terisiare through the gateway in the cave of Koilos. The text of this stanza specifically states that the combined power of the mightstone and weakstone banished the black heart back to “the world from which it came.” So, Urza and Mishra must have worked together to accomplish a common goal. The actual nature of that goal may never be known. However, the last line of the stanza foreshadows what is to come.

Urza, back from the desert,
Celebrated the defeat of the black heart and Harbin’s initiation.
But not all were thankful for their victories that night.
A quiet voice told Tawnos to turn from his path of jealousy but he
Would not listen.

Here, Kayla Bin-Kroog makes a cutting comment about Tawnos. Given Kayla’s relationship with him, one might expect Kayla to make allowances for Tawnos’ jealousy. Such uncompromising honesty, as well as the deplorable state of current Argivian literature, makes one wish that Kayla Bin-Kroog were still alive and writing today. We could certainly use her gifts.

A voice from the night,
The goddess of dreams, whispered her secrets to Urza.
For many years he dreamed of the mightstone and weakstone.
Used together, the stones were a key to unlock a hidden
Doorway to a world of knowledge.

The text of the ninth facet begins at a point almost thirty years after the beginning of the war between the brothers. The forces of the ivory tower had kept the brothers from expanding west and resources in Argive and the western desert were incredibly scarce. The war continued to drag on, even as a famine that lasted seven years reduced large amounts of the population of Argive to near-starvation. A few historical texts even hint at cannibalism in some areas.

For many years the goddess of dreams whispered to Urza,
Telling him the secrets of the mightstone and weakstone.
She told Urza about a place far away, where his soul could rest.
After Feldon searched far and wide for new lands,
The son of Urza returned home to Argive.
Urza told Feldon about his dreams
And an ancient map with the location of a hidden treasure.
Urza sent Feldon to find the island called Argoth.
With a magical gift, Feldon left his mother and father behind him,
And flew his ornithopter into the skies.
Feldon flew to the island of Argoth
And found the wall of storms that guarded it from the eyes of men.
Feldon bravely battled the savage winds of the storm
But crashed to earth and found
A heart kinder than a soft breeze.

The storms marked on the ancient maps from the time of Urza do not appear on our contemporary charts, as the weather conditions that created the storm wall no longer exist. However, we can assume that the storm wall was similar to the seasonal tropical storms that still plague the southeastern coast of Terisiare – except that the storm that circled the island of Argoth was stable. Where Urza found his map, we don’t know – although the sailor who made it must have been either very brave or very foolhardy. There is a great deal of speculation about the exact nature of the “magical gift” mentioned in the third stanza, although most agree that it had to be some form of communication technology. Whatever the gift was, it is another secret of the artifact- rich past that is lost to us today, as an understanding of the forces of mana makes such devices unnecessary.

The island of Argoth,
Protected from the world by a wall of storms,
Was the most beautiful thing Feldon had ever seen.
Urza learned that Feldon found Argoth
And Urza celebrated his victory over Mishra.

Argoth, hidden by the wall of storms, was only a legend to most of Terisiare. It was apparently rich in both natural and magical resources, and therefore would become an important strategic advantage for whichever brother found it first.

Mishra learned that Urza found the island of Argoth.
Tawnos went to Mishra and Ashnod with word of the discovery.
He was empty inside, all darkness and silence.
All Tawnos wanted was the love of Kayla to fill his emptiness,
And he dreamed of her in the night
Urza went to the island of Argoth
In ships powered by the crystals of the Thran.
On Argoth, Urza hoped to find fuel for his war against Mishra.
But Urza was old, and tired of battle, and he wished
For a place where his soul could rest.

The people of Argive were not known as mariners. Although they did possess seaworthy craft – some even with crystal-powered engines, as stated in the text – Argivian fisherman rarely ventured out of sight from their port cities. However, records recently discovered in the port city of Bak-Fal show that Urza commandeered four large fishing vessels for his voyage to Argoth. None of them ever returned.

On the island on Argoth,
After passing through the storms, Urza was greeted by his son.
Urza’s heart was filled with love when he saw Feldon.
But the sun turned to blood as Urza killed the people of Argoth
And Feldon left his father behind him.
The sun greeted
The ivory tower, as his light was reflected in the polished stone.
The Archimandrite called another council of mages.
She was afraid for peaceful Argoth now that it was no longer
Guarded from the eyes of men.
Argoth was no longer peaceful.
Feldon fought bravely with the druids against his father,
But Urza’s machines were too strong and many died in the battle.
A druid priestess took Feldon to meet Gaia, the goddess who
Protected the island of Argoth.

The druid culture of Argoth seems to be indigenous to the island, as it is found nowhere else in Terisiare. We can infer from the text of The Story of Urza and Mishra that the druids lived in close contact with nature and worshipped the earth as a goddess. Since there is no physical evidence, it is very difficult to determine how the druid people colonized the island. One of the more fanciful speculations is that Argoth broke off from Terisiare proper some time in the distant past and drifted to its last-known position off the southeastern coast of the continent. While interesting, this theory seems to raise more questions than it answers. For example, how could an island move? It is more likely that the druids colonized Argoth from another plane. If so, we can only hope that they found their way back before the end.

Gaia, the peaceful goddess of Argoth,
Sat in the center of the storm and dreamed under the stars.
She was the earth, her lover the sun, and their child the moon.
All three danced together
Gaia was the goddess of Argoth.
Feldon sought Gaia’s help in defeating Urza and Mishra.
Deep in her belly, Feldon found the red spirits.
They revealed to him the true nature
Of the Thran crystals.

The nature of the “red spirits” referred to in this stanza has long been enigmatic. It seems as if no two scholars agree upon a definition for the term. However, I believe that the key to puzzle lies in the high Argivian pictoglyph for the word “spirit.” Another text of the period – Ganly’s Journals – uses the same glyph when referring to the “little spirits of the night.” These were a type of mushroom that thrived in the region. It is well-known that certain mushrooms possess hallucinogenic properties when ingested. Could it be that Feldon’s revelatory, ecstatic experience in the belly of the goddess could be linked to a species of hallucinogenic mushroom native to Argoth?

Mishra sought Urza in Argoth.
Mishra hoped to find Urza and kill him so that
All the treasures of Argoth would belong to Mishra alone.
When Mishra searched for Urza, he discovered Feldon instead.
Feldon greeted him with blood.
Feldon hoped to kill Mishra,
But Ashnod was there to protect him from Feldon.
Ashnod’s staff and magic against Feldon’s sword and soul.
Feldon’s blood fell to Gaia and his soul rose to heaven—
His eyes peaceful in the sun of Argoth.
From Feldon’s blood, Gaia rose to protect Argoth.
The island of peace became an island of death.
Gaia – now the goddess of vengeance – found Urza and Mishra.
Mishra’s warriors fought against the goddess,
But Gaia was too strong and many died in the battle.
Gaia, the goddess of vengeance,
Did not spare Urza or his ships.
The waters around the island turned as red as blood.
Gaia the merciless was no longer
The peaceful goddess of Argoth.
The island of Argoth
Was the last destination on the long road of fate
Walked by the brothers Urza and Mishra.
The mightstone and the weakstone
Revealed the true nature of the Thran crystals.
Urza and Mishra, the mightstone and weakstone,
Were called to a dark place—
So what was broken could be made whole.
Tawnos laid Ashnod to rest in her coffin
When he discovered the blood of Feldon.

This stanza refers to a “dark place,” and uses the same glyph used earlier in the text when describing the “dark path of fate” that plagued Urza and Mishra. If, as we have postulated earlier, the dark path was actually one of the denizens from the plane of Phyrexia, then could the “dark place” that Urza and Mishra were called to be Phyrexia itself? I believe that this is a very tenable conclusion, especially when taken with the statements of the next stanza regarding the destruction of Argoth.

Does Ashnod still rest in her magical coffin, waiting to be awakened from her eternal sleep by the blood of a virgin? If the popularity of the bedtime story told to children over countless stormy nights is any indication then the answer has to be “yes.” If Ashnod does not sleep in her coffin, it is only because the power of a child’s imagination is not strong enough to make it so.

The mightstone and weakstone
Were brought together without true understanding
And the doom of the Thran was revisited upon Argoth.
Argoth disappeared beneath the waves
And peaceful Gaia rose to heaven.

What caused Argoth to sink beneath the waves so long ago? If we look no further than the text of The Story of Urza and Mishra, we are told that the Thran were a “lost race,” and that in the cave of Koilos the brothers found what had been lost – the mightstone and weakstone. As tradition has it, the Thran unleashed powers they could not control. I believe the power that destroyed the Thran – and Argoth – was an improperly-tuned dimensional gate opened with the energies of the mightstone and weakstone. Such gateways between planes are easily opened, but the mis- alignment of the gate when closing causes an incredible release of pure mana energy. An explosion of this kind destroyed the Thran and created the gigantic blast crater we now know as the western desert – and sunk the hidden island of Argoth “beneath the waves.”

The mightstone and weakstone were the doom of the Thran.
Separately, they caused nothing but misery and death.
Together, they granted peace and understanding.
As with the stones, so with the brothers—
Urza found peace, and Mishra found death.

—By Kayla Bin-Kroog, a new translation and commentary by Taysir of Rabiah