Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Mad Doctor

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.

The Mad Doctor
Mikail was nervous. He had never strayed this far out of his village before, especially for such a peculiar request. Mikail enjoyed something of a privilege position in his home village. He was a church-sanctioned scribe, which meant he commanded a level of admiration and respect similar to that of a mayor, but without the hassle of being attacked by werewolves or vampires, or that of a Cathar, again, without the hassle of being attacked by werewolves or vampires. Villagers would come to him with their problems and trifles, and he would often know how to solve them, or, worse case, someone else who could. Life for him was about as good as it got for a human on Innistrad, which was saying something.
               He had been assigned to the village of Silber about a year and a half ago. It was a rather unremarkable village for the most part, which made it rather remarkable, really. Many villages throughout Innistrad usually had all manner of problems. Roving vampire packs, werewolf hordes, vengeful haints. Mikail had heard stories of a pair of sibling corpse-raisers the next county over waging a war with one another. 


                Silber had none of those problems. About six months into his charge, Mikail found out why. Up on the top of the hill was an opulent manor. Living in that manor, was an alchemist of some renown; named Regulus. Now normally, alchemy, especially on the quantity and quality performed by Regulus, was frowned upon and persecuted by the church as an act of extreme heresy. But no one in the remote village of Silber had ever bothered to report Regulus. 

                For you see, Regulus was rather unique among Innistrad’s alchemists. He apparently had no grand aspirations of domination of all he purveyed. He did not attempt to raise the dead, or craft monsters out of livestock, or find some sort of perversion of life that would make one immortal. Since Regulus had appeared in the village of Silber, all of his efforts had been towards finding and erecting wards and repellants towards the various fiends that had plagued all of Innistrad since time before anyone could remember. And what’s more, they all worked. 

                He provided them with wards and enchantments and repellants to the beasts that lurked beyond their village’s walls. He built sewer systems (without anyone noticing somehow…) and a series of lanterns throughout the village perpetually fueled by geistflames. He purified the local wells of plagues and curses. He made the crops grow larger and bloom regularly and made the soil and livestock more fertile and all manner of miraculous things. 

                And for these reasons, the people of Silber had grown to tolerate Regulus, and ignore some of his more eccentric qualities. Whenever all of the nails had been removed from a building overnight, or all of the local sheep sheared of their wool, or every third leaf plucked from an apple tree, the villagers accepted that as a ‘payment’ of sorts to the loony on the hill that was their eccentric guardian angel.
                At first, Mikail was mortified. A heretic taking away faith from Avacyn! What’s more he was being sheltered by the entire village. He had quickly resolved to inform his higher ups of these transgressions, but the mayor had asked to see him privately. He explained the situation, that it was not out of a lack of faith that they tolerated Regulus, but more a matter of pragmatism. His methods worked.” How could the wellbeing of the village by a heresy?”, he asked Mikail. “Surely Avacyn would want her children to be safe. Who is he hurting by helping us?” Mikail thought long and hard about what was said to him, and decided to relent. He decided that so long as Regulus kept his antics ‘harmless’ that he would have no need to get the Cathars involved in a witch hunt in Silber.
                This reputation of Regulus as a wacky loner had made what had transpired all the more startling to Mikail. A week ago, while he prepared his monthly report to Thraben, he heard a knock on his door. Company at this hour was unheard of, and the months of Regulus’ safety had not tempered his suspicions, so he readied his finest silver blade, and answered the door.
                Before him stood no one at all. At his feet their lay a small ornate scroll “Dearest Mikail” printed upon it in an impossibly, almost sickeningly so, elaborate cursive font. He heard the pitter-patter of movement, and out of the corner of his eye he saw… something… dive into the nearest sewer grate. 

                Wary about the weirdness that had just transpired, he kicked the parcel behind him into his home, shut the door, and locked it behind him. He set to work, attempting every manner of curse-breaking and disenchanting upon the letter. Once he was thoroughly convinced it would not release a demon, or make his eyes rot into sludge, he opened the letter.
                Dearest Mikail Gunderson.
                I request the honor of your visitation one week from now, on the 14th eve of the Hunter’s Moon, Ava 718. History shall be made, and you shall bear witness to it!
                Your brother in Avacyn,
                Regulus Gandolfus SilversteinVon Elric the Third, Esquire.”
                As far as Mikail was aware, Regulus had never before made direct contact with any villager since his coming to Silber almost five years ago; so such directness as this was quite unprecedented. Mikail’s curiosity got the better of him, and decided to agree to the request.
                The week passed without incident, and Mikail found himself upon the stoop of Regulus’ manor. He knocked. He could hear the echo reverberate beyond the door. About ten seconds passed before he heard the locks and tumblers inside the door click and creak, and slowly the door opened inward. Mikail peered inside. He could see no one there, the door had apparently opened of its own accord somehow. Beyond the threshold was darkness stretching as far as he could see. 

                Curiosity overcame Mikail and he ventured inside. Suddenly, countless lanterns burst into flame, in every color imaginable, bathing the room in a veritable rainbow of light. He was standing in a grand foyer. He found himself gawking at all the elaborate decorations until he peered up. There were twin staircases on either side of the room. They joined together at the top, leading to a balcony. On that balcony there was a double door, left ever so slightly ajar, and beyond that he could see a sinister glow, completely unlike that of the lanterns in the room. It had an otherworldliness to it that not even the literally otherworldly geistflames could hope to match.
                Mikail was now face to face with a long, seemingly endless hallway. As he walked through the hallway, he passed by all number of bizarre and macabre decorations. Suits of armor in twisted, grotesque poses, portraits of people with the faces torn off, pots of long-dead flowers. He caught sight of a mirror and paused to look at it. As he inspected his uniform in the mirror, suddenly his reflection made a lunging motion towards him. He instinctively jumped back and drew his dagger to defend himself, but the reflection went no further; despite its obvious supernatural status, it did not attempt to breech the mirror, it just doubled over pointing and laughing at Mikail’s reaction. Whatever kind of man Regulus was, he had unique taste in decorations.  Mikail ignored the reflection, which was now performing some sort of lewd dance, and kept walking. He reached the end of the corridor and came upon a heavy set of wrought-iron doors, left ajar, the otherworldly glow pouring out. With the light, he could hear heavy grinding mechanical sounds.
                He walked through the door and found himself in a room that was beyond his ability to describe. It reminded him of a ward at the primary clinic he had seen in Thraben, but wrong somehow. There were tables covered with beakers and bottles of many shapes and sizes bubbling with fluids in as many colors as the lanterns in the foyer. He wondered if they were somehow related. The wall was covered in spinning gears and wires flowing with electricity. There were tables with straps on them  far sturdier than could ever theoretically be needed to hold a person. The one at the end of the table had a zombie on it with a variety of implements sticking out of it. There were rows and rows of shelves with jars stuffed full of things unrecognizable. In one corner of the room he saw a tank full of the creatures he had seen jump into the sewer. 

                While he was inspecting the bizarre room, an ungodly explosion happened somewhere beyond his perception. He turned towards the blast just in time to catch witness to a man flung hard onto the table of beakers, collapsing the table legs and making a mess of the fluids in them. Though he was stunned by the sheer bizarreness of what he was seeing, Mikail quickly came to his senses and rushed to help the man.
                He flipped the man over onto his back. He was wearing a white coat with a heavy leather smock. He had thick leather heavily worn gloves on his hands. As he inspected the man, he looked towards his face and noticed he had come to, and was staring intently at Mikail. The man had a strong chin and high set sunken cheeks. A thin pointed nose lay between heavily sunken eyes with deep bags, this man did not look as though he slept much. His hair was short, jet black, and slicked back as though with some sort of oil. His eyes were a cold, stony gray color. He blinked twice slowly before a look of comprehension dawned on him.
                “Was that today? Oh goodness gracious, where are my manners.”
                The man pulled himself to his feet far faster than logic would dictate should be possible for a person who was just caught in such an explosion.
                The man took off the heavy smock and gloves and threw them onto what was left of the beaker table. He dusted himself off, bent his neck sharply to one side, then other, producing loud disctinctive popping noises as he did so. He offered his hand.
                “You must be master Gunderson. Regulus Gandolfus SilversteinVon Elric the Third, Esquire at your service!” he said with the most unearthly amount of cheer Mikail had ever heard from any person.
                Once again, Mikail was left speechless. This was easily the most surreal day he had ever lived or would likely ever live. He came to his senses and shook Regulus’ hand. “Charmed”
                “I must apologize,” Regulus quipped “Confession; I tend to lose myself in my work. So rude of me to forget you were coming. I’m glad to see you found the place easily enough. Come! Tea!”
                Regulus gestured Mikail over to a corner of the lab that had not (yet) been decimated by any manner of explosion, structural collapse, or corrosive fluid; and began pouring what he could only hope was tea out of one of the beakers into a pair of heavily cracked teacups. Mikail lightly sniffed at his cup. He glanced up; Regulus has gulped his down in a single motion. Mikail, against all better judgment, thought it safe enough, and took a sip. It was far better than he would have expected.
                “So…” Mikail said slowly, “What exactly am I hear for?”
                Regulus quickly glanced up, as though he had only just realized Mikail was there, and stared blankly at him for a not insignificant amount of time. “Ah yes! That!”
                He sprang to his feet. “Mikail, my good man, you are here as my guest, to bear witness to legend!” Mikail could only stare. Regulus, sensing he was losing his captive audience, continued. “I should elaborate. You see, I’ve been waaaaaatching yooooou.” Mikail backed his chair up involuntarily “Oh don’t take it that way, you silly~ I watch everyone in the village, but you were something of a special case. When I first came to this miserable little town, I was quite ecstatic, the grasp of the church did not extend so far out into the boondocks, so I was quite capable of doing my god’s work without intervention, but then you showed up. I was quite fearful you would go and spoil my fun, but you’re not like the other church goers! You have a proper grasp of things! You can see the big picture! You knew I wasn’t a threat, so you didn’t report me; I like that!!!” Regulus grinned wide. He had a lot of teeth.
That piqued Mikail’s interest. “Why do you say you’re not a threat?”
“Because I’m not! I’m not like most of my contemporaries. I am not so bold as to wage war against Avacyn’s followers, or at least their sensibilities. I know what buttons not to push. What’s more I have a sense of self-preservation; I know that if the church were to become aware of my capabilities, they would spoil all my fun, and I can’t have that. There’s still lots of interesting things I can do without resorting to making monsters or raising the dead. And that’s why you’re here! You’re different! If there’s anyone who can appreciate what will unfurl tonight in that village, it is you!” Mikail backed up further.
Regulus walked over to another one of the machines, put a beaker underneath a spout, and began twisting some knobs and pulling levers. The machine lurched to life. “Whether or not the church appreciates or even understands it, I would not consider myself their enemy. No, I would consider myself an ally!” The machine began making all manner of horrid screeching noises as it struggled to do whatever it was trying to do. “I have a vested interest in fending off the forces of the night that blight this world.”
                “Why is that?” Mikail querrried?
                “The same reason as anyone who lives upon this earth; the monsters want to kill me. And I can’t have that, living is far too much fun~” The machine spewed out a neon blue liquid into the beaker. It let off a low glow, the same color glow Mikail had seen from the hallway. Regulus quickly downed the fluid.
“GYAAAAAAAAAAH, taste like crap!!!”
Regulus smacked his lips. “You’ve seen my work, you know that I am capable of fending off these wretched creatures. But what happens after that? What if the Church gets suspicious, or the monsters get to me? Or I get old and die? Or I’m caught in some sort of horrible explosion brought about by my own intompitence?” Regulus was ever-so-subtly starting to glow the same color as the liquid.
“About that…”
“I don’t want to die, Mikail. Blessed Sleep or no, I would much rather be alive you see. So I’ve been hard at work, coming up with a contingency plan. And you know what?” That toothy smile again. “I’ve found it.”
Regulus walked over to a tall structure that had a tarp strewn over it and yanked it off. It appeared to be a guillotine with the stocks removed from it. Mikail stood up sharply, he didn’t know what was about to happen but he didn’t think he would like it, whatever it was.
“Tonight!” He pointed sharply at Mikail. “I walk where angels tread!”
                He walked underneath the guillotine so he just under the middle of it, and put his hand on the lever.
“Don’t do i-“ Regulus threw the lever. Before Mikail could even blink the blade descended faster than lightning and split Regulus down the middle, like a knife through warm butter. The expression on each side of Regulus’ face froze, and the two halves went limp and slumped over. Mikail was left numb, the weirdness was getting to him, he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.
The two halves of the mad scientist just lay there, unmoving. Mikail waited. Waited. Waited. Nothing. He began to wonder to himself. What will happen to all of Regulus’ wards and enchantments now that he was dead? Were they autonomous, or did Regulus have to provide them with upkeep to sustain their functionality? Now that Regulus was dead, should he let the church know about the goings on in the town of Silber? If Regulus loved life as much as he said he did, why would he do something so obviously suicidal?
“Owwwww!!!” Mikail jumped back, and looked over towards Regulus. The shredded side of him was glowing blue, and out of that glow a half of a man grew out of it, returning Regulus to a whole shape of a man again. He stood up and marveled at what he did, poking his fingers together, and twiddling his ear on the side that had been regrown. Sensing that what had just happened must surely be beyond rational thought to even the most well-adjusted of men, he smile and turned towards Mikail. He opened his mouth as if to speak.
“See! Nothing to worry about!” Regulus face froze. That voice had not come from him. He saw that Mikail’s gaze lay behind him and pivoted on the spot. He saw a second Regulus, or rather his other half, in the process of regrowing, standing up from the other side of the guillotine blade. He stood fully formed and looked towards Mikail “I knew exactly what I was dooooo-“ He saw the first Regulus standing before him. They stood there, staring at themselves as though they had never seen a mirror for the first time.  

After what seemed like an eternity to Mikail “That was unexpected.” They said in unity. That toothy grin began to creep over both of their faces. “You see Mikail” The first Regulus said “You have bore witness to greatness!” He turned back towards Mikail. “With this” chimed in the second Regulus “my fun will be never-ending…”