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Chapter 1 Edit

"Okay, we are nearing Ravnica City," yelled out the captain through the loudspeakers.

Standing in a lofty balcony and with hands propped over the ornate white railing, fifteen year old boy Art serenely nodded to himself in anticipation. In not too long he would set foot on the planet's capital city - for the first time in his life!

Ravnica: The City of Guilds. The capital city for the entire world.

The capital was the place where the ten prominent guilds, each led by spellcasters informally called magi, contested their control over the planet and its billions of nearly entirely magic-ignorant citizens. It was the place where great things happened.

And fortunately for Art, it was a place where he had landed himself his first real job after graduating from school.

With the Azorius Senate, the oft-slow bureaucracy that, as the judicial branch of the Guildpact, dictated the laws of the planet. Art thought it was a good match for him: Its banner colors, blue and white, represented at their core intellectual curiosity and tranquil order, respectively. Traits that he believed he shared.

In his world there were only five colors which counted, the only ones which figured in any of the guilds because of their symbolism and magical potential. These were white, blue, black, red, and green. Black, red and green were guild colors with which he never really associated with; they corresponded to the slums, industrial zones, and nature preserves, respectively. The colors which he fit - white and blue - corresponded, as he well knew, to the populated districts and the waterfront.

Speaking of water...

He was all alone and at peace, staring off into the noon distance. For the moment he contented himself with staring over at the expanse of blue sea before him. He was far above the white of the seaside foam. What were in fact meter-wide waves looked to him so small and peaceful as they reflected the few fluffy clouds in the skies above. Even as they splashed against the tide levels of the ship, he was so far removed from them that he heard nothing but the slightest of sea sounds, and found it immensely soothing, if not for the cacophony of countless passersby. The expanse of sheer watery emptiness stretching for miles in every direction before him brought with it a sense of grandeur which he found agreeable to his tastes. The city was still too far in the distance for him to catch a glimpse of, but he had near infinite patience on this matter. After all, why rush a journey near its completion? It was like him to take his time, to experience and learn what this particular aspect of the world held for those who had the time to enjoy it, to take in the ever-so-familiar scent of salt suspended in air, and to watch the undulating surface of the water, its glossy, mirror sheen concealing away all that laid below its surface.

Art's eyes were closed. There was this particular comfort to keeping them that way. Until, suddenly, they opened involuntarily. He looked over at a golden bracelet he wore on his right wrist. Socketed onto it were a row of twelve brilliant-cut gemstones - two rubies, three opals, and seven sapphires, each about an eighth of an inch across. Normally, they all sparkled in their own unique way in the sunlight. Right now, however, a sapphire glowed with a swirling blue light which never really left the core of the gemstone.

It pulsated with a soft, mesmerizing energy.

Art smiled softly. He had, without realizing it, done enough meditation to draw upon the magical energies of a unit of blue mana, the mana of the waterfront, and by far the color of magic he was the most attuned with.

He quickly lowered his arm, furtively pressing the gems against his side so that no one would be able to see them, least of all the lit one.

Doing what he had just done was not a simple feat that anybody could do at will. No, it wasn't even something most people could do even with a great deal of training. The capacity for magic was one of those things that depended greatly on the talent of the individual. Astrologists spent a considerable amount of time trying with limited success to figure out patterns to predict whether someone would grow up to be gifted. Things they looked at included whether the dawn star, morning star, tide star, evening star, and twilight star were in near or perfect alignment the day a person was born.

Which they all were, for Art.

That was something he would never forget, but which he would also never share. Only his parents knew that about him, and it was one of the reasons they had initially suspected that he might have powerful magical abilities.

He didn't know if he could believe what they said to be true, but supposedly this stuff mattered.

And judging from the job he managed to land at Ravnica City, this was one of those things that definitely did.

It all started when Art was barely two years old. As his parents were talking to each other in their room, oblivious to where Art was, he had wandered off to the balcony - a supposedly safe place for a toddler who could barely jump, much less climb a four-feet-high protective railing. However, this time the moment he pushed on it the railing simply fell outward, into the great empty space that was high above the street that cleft right between two apartment buildings. And just like that, wee little Art found himself falling, falling... realizing that he was in trouble and wanting to escape it all.

Ping.

The next moment, in what he would one day realize to be the most startling in his life but which at the time he couldn't figure out what it meant, Art suddenly found himself back in the balcony, laying down on the ground without having suffered a scratch like he hadn't fallen off at all, even though he clearly did. The next moment his parents, having heard the clang of railing falling apart, rushed over to the balcony room to see if their trophy was still okay. And he was, which calmed them down, though the railing was noticeably missing, much to their alarm. To be safe they carried the speechless Art out of the balcony and to a safer place, before locking the door to the open balcony.

As Art would later hear his mother Sara recount to him, shortly thereafter his parents had a discussion. Sara had said to his father Dryden, "That was a close one, dear."

"If you ask me, I'm surprised he hadn't fallen off, the way the railing had broken off. It must have been a stroke of luck that he didn't tumble off with it. That would have been real bad."

"Yes, it would have been terrible," Sara had agreed.

"Do you remember our kid's horoscope reading? All five stars in near perfect alignment - a perhaps one in a billion event. Maybe it had something to do with that?"

"I doubt it, Dryden. I still think it was just by chance he was safe, though of course if that particular happenstance had, according to that belief of yours, contributed to the luck necessary to keep him alive, then I'm all the more thankful for it."

"Ha, you don't believe me, do you," Dryden prodded jokingly.

"Not at all, sweetheart."

"Sara honey, someday I'll prove to you that little Art is special. Special because of his birth signs. Don't worry - you'll see. You'll see that I was right all along." He then had given Sara an esoteric wink.

When Art had been retold this at an age he could remember, it had somehow stirred his memory. Since then he had been able to remember exactly what had happened that wondrous day, and realized what great significance his accomplishment entailed.

Reminiscing on this, Art smiled to himself. Oh, he had indeed managed to get his father Dryden the proof he needed to show Sara that his astrology meant something. But of course he - Art - was the true beneficiary of this.

Because after all, at the innocent and clueless age of two, he had been able to teleport back to safety based on instinct alone. Art couldn't remember ever hearing about someone who could do such a thing in his life.

There were, of course, other events later on in which his gifts had featured prominently in.

He knew that there were others, because those had each left their mark on him, leading him to be the type of person he was now, or because they were recent enough that he could recall them.

As he continued to stare off into skyline of the city gradually creeping into view far off into the horizon, Art recalled the many things that he had been able to do in his lifetime that had to do with magic. Granted, there weren't that many as he tried for the most part to keep his gift a secret, but those few things had made his home town fond to him.

And now, now that he was leaving his home, Art felt a pang of sadness or regret. He quickly suppressed it, deciding that it didn't mean anything. After all, it was childish to not let go of childhood times and to move on, was it not? What really mattered in his quest and in life was knowledge, which was not something that could be obtained by reminiscing about the past and feeling sad about it.

Art looked around; now that he would be leaving it, it would be a matter of future regret if he didn't look at the place a bit more often right as he was about to depart for a different place altogether.

This place was huge.

He was on one of the many twentieth floor balconies on the ship, all of which were quite spacious. There were many other balconies and glass windows on all the other floors, too. This ship was very big. The tall, modern-style towers surrounding him easily blocked out much of the view he had of the surrounding place, much like towers in downtown would be a necessary obstruction to the view.

And yes, they were towers; this entire ship was comprised of a floating platform and a multitude of towers. In fact, he had his own apartment not far away, on the tenth floor, one with a living room, bed room, kitchen and bathroom, all of which were quite spacious. It was amazing how even on a ship practically everyone was able to get such agreeable room and board, though as he had been living on this particular vessel for his entire life, that was something he had gotten quite used to.

His life had not been boring at all, even though it was on a ship. Instead, it was far from it: this particular vessel had, amongst its towers and residential areas, two schools, over a dozen parks and multiple marketplaces. And that wasn't even close to the entire list.

It was quite a cosmopolitan life indeed, which was actually not surprising, because this particular ship was a town-ship. It fit an entire settlement easily. The town-ship was a for the most part self-contained craft that carried anywhere between ten thousand and fifty thousand residents, and sustainable at that scale, including food, water and all the other requirements for living. Everything was met. Daily, several smaller vessels would rendezvous with the town-ship, dropping off and loading passengers and cargo, which was predominantly the worldwide staples, seaweed and seafood.

This town-ship was just one of quite possibly thousands that littered the planet of Ravnica, all of which were equally large. Art really had no clue just how many there were and didn't think that much about the scale of the planet's fleet of such ships, as just the one alone was too large for him to have thoroughly investigated in his lifetime.

He did, however, know why there were these leviathan constructs in the first place. Ravnica - the planet - lacked dry land. Ninety-five percent of the planet was covered in water, almost all of which was brine. This made for a population problem not far after the birth of civilization.

Many centuries ago all the natural land that the planet had had become entirely populated, leaving just about nothing left of nature except for the odd park and natural reserve. Even the sparse islands and archipelagos became overbuilt and overpopulated. The entire world had become an ecumenopolis, one massive sprawling city over which the sun never rose nor set, which was always in both summer and winter. Even so, giving the booming population, it was inevitable that there had to be some kind of outlet for the excess humans.

But as could be expected from a race of beings which had an endless thirst for knowledge, they solved that problem in due time.

Enter the construction of floating platforms, all incredibly large so as to sustain a great population, which went into the billions. The scale of this construction had quickly become so extensive and widespread that basically getting room on these vessels was cheap from all the economies of scale. Of course, it was only the next step to construct platforms that could move through the water, albeit slowly.

Over the centuries, the basic design had steadily improved, with a lot of scientific research devoted to maritime shipping. As a result, now these town-ships could travel at three miles per hour. In due time, this was enough for the town-ships to meet between the original cities of the continents. As the population topped ten billion these past few decades, there were so many town-ships that they basically became the primary mode of transport between the cities. If people were in any urgency to get from place to place, they could of course do so; but what the town-ships offered was the option of visiting various parts of the world city over a lengthened period of time, much like a cruise ship journey around the world that took place on the communal scale and which spanned months if not years according to a schedule planned far in advance.

The schedule said that this town-ship would arrive at the capital city this afternoon. It would stay for about a week, enough for everyone on board to go visit the famed site and the governmental core of Ravnica for a few days, before departing for the next destination on its itinerary. It would not return to Ravnica for another eight months, by which time it would have rendezvoused with true coastline towns sixty times and with other town-ships around two hundred times. So for Art, who didn't really want to buy a ticket if he didn't have to, it was now or never.

Ravnica City wasn't the largest city on Ravnica the planet. That honor belonged to... well, Mainland, the largest of the scattered, sparse continents, since it was all just one city. Indeed, Ravnica City had a population of only two million - paltry compared to Mainland's three and a half billion.

Then again, Ravnica City was mobile, which couldn't be said of the metropolitan continent. As the largest city-ship in existence despite being built over a century ago, it was the shining keystone in the arch of engineering's achievements, a wonder of the world, and well befitting its role as long-time capital city of the world. Much like the town-ship Art had spent his life living on, Ravnica City also moved from place to place along a pre-defined trajectory, though because of its purpose it generally it met up only with the largest cities and only rarely would be docking with the average town-ship.

By now the city-ship was visible at the horizon, along with its many skyscrapers. Even at this great distance, its sheer size was startling, floating alone, an urban bastion in a mostly uninhabited ocean.

From end to end, the great Ravnica City spanned some five miles.

Art could make out that the incredibly thick, majestic platform that formed the streets of the city took an uncommon snowflake shape, with two different sets of three nearly identical petals forming that shape. Beyond the borders of its beautifully aesthetic design were the endless expanse of the waters, sparkling and flashing in the reflected sunlight. It appeared that Art's home town-ship was preparing to dock into one of the wedges between two of the city-ship's petals.

Towering over the immense platform was the hexagonal grid of residential, commercial and industrial sectors, with several prominent sections of shiny, glass-paneled high-rise buildings indicative of corporate headquarters and plazas. Other sections were low-key, homely residential districts, and man-made parks. Near the center of the city could be seen the smokestacks of the industrial zones' many factories and power plants, spewing fluffy white steam clouds into the sky.

Art smiled, taken in as he was by the resplendent beauty and glamorous splendor of what his eyes were laying their sight on, and his new home.

From first appearances, Ravnica City didn't look bad at all.

The two monoliths that were the city-ship and the town-ship were slowly moving in lockstep as the latter proceeded to dock. The ships were now within a few miles of each other; in another half hour the process would be complete. But although Art had always found the time to stare off thoughlessly into the waves of the endless oceans, he had grown up to be quite impatient with a lot of things. Which, at the moment, included waiting for the two sluggish vessels to finally dock with each other, then wait for port security to check them in.

No. He would use one of his great advantages to skip that arduous process. From his vantage point, he could clearly see a region of open space which comprised a courtyard of sorts in the city-ship. He decided where he would go - to a seemingly uninhabited area of the courtyard, surrounded by walls on three sides but within a short distance to the marketplace where he was to meet up with an Azorius contact. Looking around, Art saw that the balcony he was on was quite empty.

He had already said his farewells to his parents. Sara and Dryden were understanding people, realizing that there had to come a time when their baby son would have to leave their side and explore the world at large, to making a living on his own. He had of course promised to meet them again when the ships came back together in eight months' time.

By which time, Art believed, he would have already made a respectable living for himself.

Art checked his back. Strapped on behind him was a backpack filled with the belongings he felt would potentially come in useful, including food, water, money, identification papers, and a book the contents of which he had written all by himself. It felt like everything was where it should be. Good. He was ready.

It was time to go.

With a simple thought, Art willed himself off the town-ship and into the chosen destination. A soft, resounding Ping echoed around the walls of the nearby residential towers as Art vanished into thin air, and reappeared on Ravnica.

All done without anyone noticing, which was exactly what he wanted. So much for a farewell party.

He had miscalculated his landing. Looking at his back, he noticed that he had teleported right into a wall - or more accurately, where a perfectly smooth and substantial wall used to be. Now there was a large, perfectly convex round niche in place of that wall, two meters in diameter. He gently rolled a hand over its perfectly smooth roundedness, once again taken in by surprise at his gifts.

The Aegis that had protected him for so long had, he well knew, just saved his life again, preventing him from rematerializing right in the middle of a a solid object and breaking into a billion bloody fragments.

Art proceeded to walk down the extensive courtyard. Ravnica City. it seemed, had plenty of these public parks, giving the municipality a much needed pleasant aura. Roughly rectangular in shape, it spanned several hundred feet in length and width. Crisscrossing it were various marble-tiled paths with inviting benches placed every ten yards or so. Many people were passing leisurely through the park, most peacefully looking at the green grass and tall trees that surrounded them, some exercising alongside their dogs, some sitting on a bench whilst reading newspapers, and others daintily picking a few flowers from the numerous flower beds growing here.

As he too walked down the paved path that stretched down the middle of the courtyard, he reminisced to himself on how he had first obtained or discovered his Aegis.

It was back when he was age five. His parents had long before realized that he indeed possessed the ability to teleport, or "ping", from place to place almost instantaneously and at will, much to Dryden's happiness and Sara's surprise. Believing that Art could potentially become a mage someday and thereby have a fighting chance of living the truly good life magi were known to have, Dryden had told his son the basics of spellcasting and had taken him inside an open-to-the-public factory in the town-ship's industrial district.

"Okay, Art, here's where we stop," said Dryden to him in a loving, fatherly voice.

Art looked back at him with a clueless look in his eyes. There were all sorts of machinery around here, but aside from him, his father and the workers, there was no one else. To Art this place seemed to be of no interest. "Why are we stopping here, dad?"

"Remember what I said about the good magic that the Boros work, son?"

"Yes. Are we going to be doing that here?"

"Uh, how about let's not get ahead of ourselves," said Art's father, hiding the fact that he had no talent for casting spells and therefore couldn't show his son how to do so. "Now, what did I say was the first step to spellcasting?"

"Umm..." Art thought about this for a moment, then said, "We have to get mana first before we can cast a spell," he replied simply, looking up at his father's face with a smile and expecting one in return, which he got.

"Right, and what are the five kinds of mana in the world?" Dryden prodded.

"There's green mana from the parks and the gardens, white mana from the homes and the streets, blue mana from the water-side homes and the stores, black mana from the ugly houses and junkyards, and red mana from the factories and the power plants." Art's eyes suddenly beamed up. "We're here inside a factory! We must be trying to get red mana! Right, dad?"

"Exactly, son," Dryden complimented, ruffling Art's short black hair in the process, causing Art to smile. "The Boros work with two colors of mana, white and red." As Art would later recall, Dryden strongly supported the policing work of the Boros guild, and desperately hoped that Art would grow up to join their ranks, not just as a lowly solder recruit but as a prominent spellcaster.

"Now, in order to get red mana you have to experience all the work energy and all the lots of exciting activity that goes with this place. So just relax, and let all the energy from this place come into you." 

That was exactly what Art did. However, after ten minutes of looking around with inquisitive eyes and trying to "feel" what this place was like, Art hadn't caught on to the vibe of the place. For him, there was nothing special here.

"Dad, why are we here again?" asked Art after that prolonged pause.

Dryden looked saddened, and said simply, "Umm... never mind. Maybe you're too young for this, though I do really hope you'll be accepted into the Boros someday. We'll try again some other time, okay?"

During this time neither father nor son noticed that someone sitting in the corner, one who had a deep grudge against the Boros guild and wanted to exact vengeance, had been slowly accumulating red mana from the place and the surrounding regions. About two dozen gemstones worn all about him had lit up with that strange, reddish flare which floated about, one within each of them.

The stranger suddenly stood up and took out a scroll from his side pocket, spreading it out. Art only had enough time to see the lines of text on the open scroll before it began to emit a dense black light that quickly consumed light from its immediate vicinity, shrouding the magical paper in pitch black. Each of the swirling reddish lights within the mage's various gems emitted a crimson spark of pure magical energy, all two dozen of which spiraled into the beckoning scroll.

The scroll and these sparks of light vanished entirely into a sphere sizzling with raw power, which the mage held in the palm of his hand, ready to unleash its force upon Art. Dryden immediately fled the scene, while Art was too stunned to move.

The moment it had unraveled, Art sensed a profound hunger, bottomless, emanating from the spell, and knew it to be incredibly powerful. Just then, his instincts took over.

Ping!

And he was gone, back in the safety of home.

What he didn't realize at the moment was that the spellcaster had unleashed his beam of energy at Art just as he was teleporting away. As the energy was sucked into the riddled tapestry of the plane, in that one exact instant it changed form, becoming a sphere of energy revolving ceaselessly around, and encompassing, Art's body.

The power of the blow combined with the gift of teleportation in action was such that it sent Art into a state of delirium, ceaselessly muttering incoherent words to himself and not responding to anyone else.

Sara, who was at home when Art suddenly appeared in this vegetative state, shook him for a good few minutes, hoping that by doing so it would knock him back into his senses. When that didn't work, she proceeded to take one of Dryden's spare leather belts and, cringing, lash out at Art, thinking that a good enough dose of pain would resolve the matter.

Art's mother looked on wide-eyed as the belt came crashing down on Art, only to be suddenly stopped by an unseen force and slipping off the spherical exterior of what was clearly Art's protective bubble. It left her speechless too.

When Dryden finally made his way back home, out of breath from having run nonstop the entire time and hoping beyond hope that his son had managed to make it home safely, Sara told him all about what had happened. The two hugged each other in bewilderment, desiring each other's comfort as they watched Art continue to roll around on the floor making weird blabbing noises.

"So I lashed at him with your spare belt, but it just rebounded right off him!" Sara was saying.

Dryden took the belt in his hand and proceeded to put all his strength in his first blow. As Sara had expected, it smacked right into the invisible barrier and fell right off, leaving Art wholly intact. Cursing to himself (something Dryden almost never did) and believing that the rogue spellcaster had cast a hex on his child and only son, he proceeded to lash at the bubble with as much strength as he could muster, over and over and over again, shouting profanity with each attempt as Sara looked on helplessly, tears of grief rolling down her cheeks.

The barrier wasn't impenetrable. After a few hundred hits - almost all of which Dryden could have sworn were the most powerful blows he had ever managed in his entire lifetime - the whip finally came through, injecting Art with a sudden dose of pain which knocked him out of his strange coma and made him cry out in pain and look at his parents with shock and fear in his eyes.

"Ow! Dad, what was that for?" Art shouted.

Relieved at last that his son was fine, an over-exhausted Dryden dropped the whip and collapsed onto a sofa, his arms now seriously cramping, resting motionlessly on his sides. Dryden was breathing heavily from his exertion. It had taken Dryden half an hour and over four hundred blows - during which he rested at least twenty times - before he had broken through the bubble barrier.

His tears of grief were replaced by tears of joy, and even Sara cried out in delight that all of Dryden's hard work had succeeded at last.

But that wasn't the end of the bubble. Art could feel its strength coursing through his body mere minutes after he had been smacked awake, could sense how resilient it was already becoming, but it felt great to him. As a result, he didn't call out in fear to his parents in the five hours that followed, by the end of which Art instinctively knew that the bubble had come back to full strength, the same strength it was when Dryden had first started lashing at him.

This soon turned out to be another gift of his. Being attuned to the bubble, young five-year-old Art could activate and deactivate it at will, allowing him to eat and drink. All the air that he breathed, the bubble shield filtered as it came in, purifying it of all the airborne pollen, soot, dust, and disease agents, whenever it was activated. He could change its shape and its permeability to allow others to walk right by him without bumping into the invisible barrier. And finally, he could use it to rapidly shred through the strongest of materials that got in his way, which would become very important in teleporting properly.

Art never figured out exactly why this barrier - his Aegis - came into being. Seeing as how rare it was, he soon came to realize that no one else either understood or could replicate it. For all Art knew, it could very well be a once-in-a-million fluke.

Art had used to be a kid who was more or less like the other boys at school. He played and chatted with the other first graders, and occasionally would be bullied by fellow first grader Naric and his cohorts.

That all changed the day when he gained the Aegis. Being gifted with such power would easily make most people who met him feel incredibly uncomfortable, especially because, being a passive power, it was a lot easier discovered than the fact that Art could jump from place to place since age two.

Art overheard as Dryden said to Sara, "This... barrier ability of Art's, I've heard of it before. It's called the Aegis. It's very good that he has it, and yet, it complicates things tremendously."

They then proceeded to engage in a conversation using various adult words the meanings of which Art had no clue of and which he subsequently forgot. However, since the twin gifts were of significant import in his life, he remembered years later to go and discover just what the subject of his parents' conversation would have been:

Being able to teleport was an incredibly rare phenomenon, something which, it seemed, could only be accessible to the lucky few who, as others often put it, were "favored by the heavens". Even so, it was so potent, so important to governmentand high class affairs on Ravnica, that this gift had its own name:  the Spark.

People with the Spark often kept it a secret, preferring not to be ostracized for their gift, and to use it only to escape dangerous or highly unpleasant situations. When it did come to that, they then tried to use various amnesia spells to make observers forget the event if possible.

The Aegis too was a rare phenomenon, but considerably more common than the Spark, since it could be initiated based on any of a number of different and theoretically reproducible, albeit highly unusual circumstances. Those who had the Aegis as their only gift sometimes chose to flaunt it in public, and were frequently given positions of power and prestige in a guild's hierarchy. By itself, the Aegis wasn't too much of a threat to society, since a wayward mage with an Aegis could be handled by sheer power and deft opponents. Also, most instances of the Aegis were far weaker than Art's.

Combine the Spark and the Aegis in the same person, however, and you've just made sulfur and saltpeter into gunpowder. The Spark allowed one to teleport out of harm's way at will and to just about any location one could think of, though not securely; the Aegis protected one from just about everything and at all times, essentially giving them a multitude of second chances or second lives in combat, and converting them into a tank that could soak up some serious punishment. Having both, Art could teleport himself into solid stone and obliterate the stone, and not himself; he could teleport himself into an adversary and wipe the latter from existence without difficulty and without warning; he could take multitudes of fatal blows from ambushing opponents and still teleport away to safety to exact swift revenge. The combination of pluripresence and pluripotence... now that was true power.

In short, he was such a threat to society that it was easily conceivable that any of a number of guilds would send assassins to eradicate him, difficult task that it would certainly be.

Of course, his parents, caring as they were, would not want to see this sorrowful fate come to pass to their only child. They decided to care for this child, to protect him, and to conceal him. Their discovery of Art's power was the main reason why his parents agreed not to have other children - more people in the family meant a greater likelihood that his secret would be exposed.

And so, his parents admonished him not to get too close with other people, telling him that, starting on that fateful day, most people he met would actually be his enemies. Art didn't understand at first, but over the course of the weekend Sara and Dryden told him to stay away from other people so much that it quickly sank in. By the time schooling for first grade resumed the next Monday, the tendency to avoid the other students and teachers had been ingrained into him.

His reverie having ended, Art found himself having cleared the expansive courtyard and having crossed several streets, with tall apartment buildings rising up on all sides. All around him rose high-rise apartment buildings, with a variety of stores taking up the lower levels. The rather tidy street was rather narrow for such a densely populated place, only about a dozen yards wide or so, and was filled with people jostling past him and milling about in all directions, some biking, others running, though mostly walking. People were shopping in all the various stores around him, each advertising their products with huge banners and logos - the larger and flashier, the better. Far overhead, the apartment buildings connected with each other with a system of skywalks, once on their sixth floors and again on their twelfth.

Art's eyes settled on a store not too far from him. Ciros' seafood, one of the prominent restaurants in all the world and his favorite. And he was hungry too - it was already one in the afternoon. Within moments he had walked in and a waitress had beckoned him over to a table. Art ordered his typical meal - an assortment of shrimp, scallop and fish on a plate of dried seaweed. It was a staple just about everywhere in the world, and was known simply as "the relish". Once it came out about five minutes later, he quickly dug into the staple dish, savoring the flavor the entire time and with a happy smile evident on his cheeks. All too soon he was done, content, having relished his lunch. He signaled for a waitress to come over, and paid for his meal - two credits - using his debit card.

Once outside, Art continued at a leisurely pace on his journey to the rendezvous point.

There were many, many people here - far more than he had ever encountered back on his town-ship. The scope of the city was massive, too - and these residential complexes, often reaching twenty stories tall, were some of the shortest structures here. As he walked, he noted that although the ground on which he stood was paved and made to look as natural a road as it could, that it resounded with echoes that indicated it was hollow. An entire under-city existed beneath the streets of Ravnica City, comprising the entirety of the massive snowflake-shaped platform on which he stood.

Right before his eyes, three men broke out into a fight, two throwing punches at the third. Art stopped to stare at them, though making sure that no one could use the occasion to pickpocket him. The trio shouted at each other, and soon two of them were knocked down and severely beaten by the third. At this point the entire crowd rushed in and dragged the men apart from each other, shouting in alarm.

This was Boros territory - the home precinct of the red-white police guild. As such, there were police patrolling the streets in great numbers, and it seemed every intersection had its own police station. Within moments a squad of police decked in red and white uniform came and arrested them for disrupting the peace.

As the crowd murmured their approval and began to meander off, Art remembered another incident from his past.

Shortly after Art was gifted his Aegis, he had to go back to school, a move Dryden found necessary to prevent suspicion about him. Art acted like normal, except for the major factor that he desperately tried to avoid everyone. He sat away from his friends in class and out of class.

One of his core teachers, Ms. Boreal, asked, "Are you okay, Art? You don't seem to look so well. Maybe you're sick?"

Art shook his head. "No, I'm fine."

"Well, if you later think you need to you can go to the nurse's office," Ms. Boreal offered.

Art didn't reply, thinking he had attracted too much attention already, choosing to nod meekly.

Art wasn't sick. He was just avoiding everyone as best he could. He then abandoned everyone as soon as lunchtime began and leading a good friend of his, Jasmine, to say to her own clique of friends, "I wonder what's wrong with Art. He doesn't seem to be acting like himself."

"I think so too! He's acting all shy and such." said another girl.

"Ooh! Maybe he has a crush on someone!" which led to them giggling.

Art didn't answer. Instead, he turned to look at his own lunch and munched on it soundlessly. The message he sent to everyone was quite obvious: He didn't want to be disturbed. And so Jasmine and the others walked away. And as Art continued to act so despondent and continued to isolate himself from the rest of the school as best as he could, they found little opportunity or reason to meet back up with him. Which was just fine to Art, because his parents had told him not to get close to anyone for his own safety. It was "don't talk to strangers" taken to the extreme.

Of course, it wasn't so easy for Art to avoid some of the other people on the school grounds. Naric and two of his bully pals had heard of Art suddenly becoming so timid and decided to harass him for kicks. Art, however, was quite aware of their approach. The moment he noticed, Art walked off briskly in the opposite direction, even as the trio followed, intent on "seeing if he's become a girl". Soon Art had meandered off to the forested park that was a part of the school, all the while feeling very annoyed that these bullies found it amusing to get to him. It only affirmed Art's belief that his parents were right in saying that everyone else in the world was an enemy. After having entered the wooded park, Art silently took a series of turns that quickly put him out of the bullies' sight.

"All right, you go that way and you go right. I'll go forward. If you see Art, call out so that we'll know where he is. Got it?" said Naric. Soon the trio had gone their separate ways, hunting for him.

Art hid himself in the middle of a thicket of trees, hard to see from a distance but easily identifiable up close. Naric chanced to come upon him pretty quickly. As he spotted Art, he broke into a sickly smile, and he raised an index finger at him. "Ha, seems like I found you," said Naric. "So tell me, Art, what's going on with you? Having a bad hair day?" Naric grinned.

"Weren't you going to call to the others? Too scared to face me alone?" Art retorted stoically.

"Me? Scared of you? Ha!"

"Go pick on someone your own size," Art intoned ominously. It was a weak protest; Naric was also a mere five years old.

"No! I want to pick on you," said Naric as he approached.

Art was getting seriously tired of having to attend to this bully. He wanted the person to be gone. Then, Art recalled what he had done only two days before, teleporting right beside a small pool of spilt water, causing it to utterly vanish - a feat made possible by the Aegis he carried. Without giving it any more thought, Art realized that he could likewise get rid of the annoyance confronting him now.

Ping.

The next moment, Art was standing exactly where Naric was, and there was no trace left of either the bully or the vegetation in a perfect sphere within one meter of him.

Simultaneously, Art collapsed, screaming out in utter, unimaginable pain that couldn't be expurged, couldn't be ignored. His mind seemed to shred and peel away from his soul, breaking apart into pieces, and with it draining away his insanity. Another soul had suddenly conjoined with his, forced out of its own body by Art's teleporting in, and finding itself overlapping with that of a different body. In this catatonic state, he engaged in a seemingly endless mental struggle as he tried to regain control of his body, wresting it away from the stranger it harbored. During this terrible pseudo-existence, he felt a swirl of indescribable emotions and otherworldly experiences befitting the tortured thoughts of someone who was at the same time dead and yet not dead. And that way it lasted, lasted, and lasted.

Ultimately, Art, having always been in this body of his, won out over the strange entity sharing it, expelling it and thereby sending it to the Void. Even the first minutes of his recovery were nerve-wracking, every muscle in his body spasming; his lungs felt like they had gone far past bursting. Art was utterly helpless, so utterly helpless to avoid the pain he was going through. By the time he could control himself again, he had screamed himself dry, his tears had flowed from eyes to cheek.

He was surrounded by teachers and students, all of who were looking on with amazement and surprise. Ms. Boreal asked, "Art! Art! Oh thank goodness, you're awake! We were so worried for you, are you okay? My dear, what happened?"

Art's protective Aegis had dissipated, evidently sent offline as a result of what he had done. He merely looked up at his teacher with bloodshot eyes, as if daring her to ask such a question to him even after all the horrors he had just gone through. Really, he couldn't yet think straight, nor make any sense of what she and the others were doing here. With the help of the teachers, Art was lifted off to the nurse's office.

It then took Art half an hour to finally recover to the point that the nurse even considered asking if he wanted to go back to class. Art did, and when he arrived in the classroom and found that the meddlesome Naric wasn't around anymore, he comfortably went back to his former self, a seemingly shy student who avoided the others. When the teachers asked him if he knew where Naric had gone, he told them that he didn't know. When they asked what had happened, he said that he didn't recall. There were those who found it strange that the two strange events happened at the same time, but they could pin nothing on him.

Nobody found Naric that day, greatly worrying the teachers and Naric's parents. Nobody ever found Naric, and in due time he was forgotten everywhere except in a newspaper's list of people who had gone missing.

Only years later would Art have learned that what he had done that day was murder - albeit not the most depraved, but manslaughter nonetheless.

Only years later would Art realize that he had been one of the very few people in the world in Ravnica's history to experience a phenomenon he called Astral Overlap, and live to be able to tell the tale. The event was so rare yet implied so much for him that he coined it, though of course keeping it only to himself. The sudden transfer of his body and soul from one place to another place where there had already been a body and a soul, coupled with the Aegis, meant that the latter's body would vanish, but evidently the Aegis didn't destroy the soul as well. Now superimposed on the same body, the two souls fought for control of the one body, which was meanwhile already being devastated by the cataclysmic use of the Aegis at the same place in time. Compare that to teleporting into a wall or into empty space, which, without a soul comparable to Art's, would not result in the explosive result. All in all, it was a very complex state of affairs, but Art believed now that he understood what had happened that day.

The consequences of Astral Overlap also meant that he must never again use his twin gifts as an offensive weapon - it was just too dangerous. Art had been left helpless, comatose, and unprotected for an extended length of time that even he didn't know lasted how long. If he was to ever get into a fight with another mage, he would have to use other methods - this one, he vowed, was off limits. Then again, reasoned Art, that didn't mean that the rest of society knew that he couldn't do this again; if they knew he possessed both the Spark and the Aegis, they would definitely try to eradicate him or banish him from existence.

Oh, how he wanted to show them that he couldn't hurt them, and thus be accepted back into society! -But doing so would only be confessing himself as a murderer, and there was no way Art could do that, no matter how much he agreed with society's rules.

Now nearly an adult at age fifteen, Art still felt sorry for the unfortunate kid. That person would never live to see another day, never grow to his age. Then again, Art hadn't intended to kill his schoolmate when he had done what he had done.

In the following days, months, and years, Art remained reserved to himself, leaving others to enjoy talking to and playing with each other. Art, meanwhile, didn't partake in any of that. As a result, his dual secrets were kept hidden from the others, who lost interest in him soon enough and decided to simply leave him alone, including Naric's bullying friends. It meant that he was a social pariah in his own school, outcast at such a young age; but it had also been a teacher to him, forcing him to be able to make do living on his own. He believed that this experience would make him more qualified for the interview ahead at his rather young age.

Art's mind returned to the present. Finally, he had cleared the residential sector and found himself in a much more open-to-the-skies space. a gigantic trapezoidal complex thirty stories tall and a thousand feet wide, shimmered golden in the noon sunlight. It stood imposingly in the center of this open square, with plenty of police officers standing at ease by each of its entrances, their coat of armor painted a brilliant red and white.

Art stopped to take a good look at this building. So this was the majestic Sunhome, the capital of the red-white guild, the Boros Legion! No wonder his father Dryden wanted him to become a member - any look at this was enough to convince a guildless that this was the organization they wanted to be governed by, wanted to be a part of.

There were already quite a few people standing at the little square in front of the Sunhome, evidently waiting for someone to arrive as they talked to each other. Art counted 39 of them, talking to each other about a host of various things. Quickly approaching, Art listened to what the others were talking about.

"Hello guys," Art said comfortably. "This is the group for the Azorius interview day, right?"

"That's right," said one of the interviewees. "It seems everyone here has just come from Aelindor, the town-ship currently parked alongside this city. I assume you are too?"

"Indeed. I'm Art," the teenager said, smiling and stretching out his arms to shake hands with the four standing right next to him.

"Elad. Nice to meet you."

"Art."

"Jessica."

"Art."

"Lawrence."

"Art."

"Andrew."

"So, tell us about yourself," prompted Jessica.

"Fine. Where should I start?" began Art. "I'm from Aelindor. Lived there my whole life. Hope you liked it during your stay." Art had noticed that during the three weeks prior to his town-ship meeting up with Ravnica City, various other, smaller ships had docked with Aelindor, offloading people who were only staying on the town-ship until they would get to Ravnica. Art had assumed that several of them would be trying to get a job at Ravnica City, but not so many. Also, he had only expected one or two people native to Aelindor to be interviewing at any of the guilds here.

"We all came from different town-ships," replied Lawrence. "They're very similar to Aelindor, however, they have different guilds running them. Aelindor's three guild presences are Izzet, Boros and Selesnya. Mine was Boros, Golgari and Gruul."

"Have you traveled much?" asked Art.

"Hmm... quite a bit, quite a bit," said Jessica, nodding. "We really like travelling, my family. Almost like nomads. No matter where we go, we always have the same seascape and the same cityscape surrounding us. Our entire family's been dedicated blue-white, as you can imagine."

"That explains why you're here, eh?" Art asked, smilingly.

"So, we were just talking about which internship we wanted," said Andrew. "I'm going for intern judicator. Elad here's going for intern spellshaper, Jessica for intern spellshaper, and Lawrence for intern senator. What about you?"

Art had thought about this question for a long time. He immediately answered, "intern spell analyst."

The other interviewees gave him a blank stare. "Spell analyst?" muttered Lawrence. "I didn't know they had such a position."

"Yeah, that sounds totally fresh to me."

"Oh, they do," affirmed Art. "See, the Azorius Senate want to keep everything balanced, right? One of the ways they seek to do that is to figure out how the guilds' strengths match up with each other, by simulating battles and the effects of spells in a variety of situations. They have a whole department dedicated to making sure no one guild becomes too powerful, and everyone there is more or less a spell analyst. So that's the job I'm going for."

"Well, it sounds great," said Jessica, beaming. "So why are you interested in that particular field?"

"It just seems to be my calling," said Art. "I've always thought about the interactions between various spells, and find them to be interesting. Then again, I'm not all that sure about it. Maybe I'll end up doing one of the things you're doing. Hey, are there any other opportunities available in this guild?"

"Yes, there's intern battlemage, intern transcriber, and intern public notary, among others. But the ones we're interested in happen to be the main ones," replied Jessica. "I've talked to the others, and the majority are going to be our direct competitors for the positions we're going for."

"Hmm. Do you know how many people they're going to accept?" asked Art.

Jessica replied, "From what I've garnered, they're not exactly trying to fill in open slots, but are instead looking for the best candidates. For a blue-white guild they seem to be quite aware that people get tired of stability every so often and thus provide their members with plentiful opportunities to switch to a different department altogether. As such they want to get the smartest, brightest people in their front doors."

"I think you're right, that makes plenty of sense," Art replied.

Just then an adult voice not far from the assembled group of teenagers said, "Now then, we've already waited past the alotted amount of time, so all of you who are going to show up already have. Let's proceed to Azorius's sector." Obligingly, all the hopeful candidates followed the man, their eager chatting dying down to the odd whisper. As a group, they left the square in front of the Sunhome and proceeded further away from the center of the city. They had trouble not getting lost amidst the flurry of people traveling from place to place in the rather dense streets they were traversing through.

"My name is Justin, Azorius hiring coordinator for Ravnica City," said the adult as the group walked. "I'm in charge of today's event. Remember, I'm the one who's out to make this experience the best it can be for you.

"For those of you who have interviewed elsewhere, you probably know that Super Day can be a big hassle, as it is very tedious and lengthy. This program will last from now until ten at night, which is a good eight hours away, so I hope you've caught something to eat. Taking that into consideration, I'll be expecting a few of you to be tired out towards the end, and so we have built-in relaxation timetables. Our schedule involves giving you all a questionnaire to see if you possess the basic qualifications for joining the Azorius guild - the guild compatibility test - followed by a leisurely tour through the Azorius home district. After that will be your first interview, where we determine if you're a good fit for the organization, followed by a presentation by representatives from a few of our more prominent departments. Then there will be a second, and then a third round of interviews, covering more extensively the qualifications you may have. When all is said and done, anywhere between two and ten of the best of you will be offered an internship with us.

"If you need anything, or have any questions, please feel free to let me know, and I'll try to help as best I can. Now, how many of you have been to this city-ship before?" He looked around, and saw that no one raised their hands.

"Okay then, I'll probably start off by telling you all a little about it." As Justin talked, he gave each of the interviewees a pamphlet which served as a map to the city. As Art listened, he alternately looked at where they were going and at the map he held in his hands. "Ravnica City is the City of Guilds, as you probably know. All ten guilds each have their own presence somewhere in this snowflake-shaped city, arranged symmetrically. There are three large petals, each home to two guilds and arranged 120 degrees from each other. In between each two is another, small petal, making for three total, each home to a single guild. The six spaces between the six petals are two marinas, two ports, and two aquaculture farms. The center of the ship is high density residential and commercial. Interspersed across the city are residential districts, though each petal - each district - has its own focus, giving the districts their name.

"There are seven districts in total, one for each petal and one for the core. The central district, also known as the Commercial District, is home to the white-black Orzhov guild. Its headquarters, the Great Cathedral Orzhova, is right in the middle of the city. Nearest to it is the Hexagon, the financial sector, involving exchanges for commodities, stocks, fixed income, futures, real estate, contracts, slaves and more. It is truly the financial headquarters of the world. Beyond it is a ring of the headquarters of the largest companies and institutions on Ravnica. Those are the skyscrapers you may have seen in portraits of the city.

"The petal we are walking through is the Law District also known as the First Wing, home to the red-white Boros Legion, which serves as the government's police, and of course us Azorius, the law-making body of the government. The two most prominent features here are the Sunhome, headquarters of the Boros, and the Spires, headquarters of the Azorius Senate. At the tip of the petal is Palace Park, a wonderful place that I suggest you go visit sometime - and if you stay in Ravnica City, you'll grow to love it. The ports aren't too far from the Sunhome, located as they are along both sides of the petal. As you'll notice about the larger petals, one guild is located in the half closer to the city center and the other guild is located further away. For the First Wing, to get from Azorius territory to Orzhov territory you'll first have to go through the Boros territory, which we like because it insulates us from the daily goings-on of the rest of the world, and also allows the Legion to dispatch police forces throughout the city relatively quickly.

"Going clockwise, we have the Slum District - not a good place to be. Some say that the fabled tenth guild, the Dimir, is located there. I of course have never seen it. If you ever have business there, best to be careful and come with friends. Closer to the city is a great Lottery.

"Next we have the Nature District, aka. the Second Wing. This is home to white-green Selesnya guild closer to the city center and green-black Golgari guild farther away. I guess you could say that most of the people who live there are nature-lovers. If you go check it out, you'll see that different parts of the city look so different they seem almost to be different cities. The two largest parks in that petal are Selesnya's Garden Park and Golgari's Verdant Park. Selesnya is also home to the largest hospital on Ravnica City, and the Golgari devote a significant portion of their space to food farms.

"The next small petal is the Arena District, controlled by the red-black Rakdos. There's a good reason why they're isolated to their own petal most of the time. Boros guards keep the peace in the city and act as a barrier to prevent those people from spilling out into the rest of the city, especially when their desires for anarchy get the best of them. There are three arenas there, the middle one being the Great Stadium.

"The Third Wing, or Research District, is the last of the larger petals. Home to red-blue Izzet guild closer to the core and blue-green Simic guild along the outskirts, this is the petal which revolves around science and technology. The Simic have their own Clinic, the Izzet run the city's reactor core, which drives this ship, and together they run the city's water treatment facilities. The two guilds share Research Park. The Simic also have three immense Biospheres where they perform and keep much of their research.

"And finally we have the Industrial District, home to the red-green Gruul guild. Here you can find just about all the factories, the trio of power plants that power the city, and the incinerators at the farthest point. It is also home to Industrial Park. The Gruul generally aren't too content with being stuck with all the NIMBYs in Ravnica City, and so the Boros are present there as well to make sure they don't let thoughts of sedition get too far into their mind.

"There is also an extensive undercity which constitutes the ground beneath us. Generally not very useful except as a way of storing air to keep this city from sinking, it can occasionally find use as a storage facility or as secondary mode of transport.

"So there you are: the outlays of the city of Ravnica, fully man-made, five miles in diameter and sustaining a population of two million. Any questions?"

Everyone turned to look at everyone else, and no one said anything. They were evidently still trying to absorb what they had just been told. Justin cracked into a smile. "Haha! Quite a mouthful, isn't it? But don't worry - once you've lived here for a month, this will be natural to you, and you'll be able to describe the city by rote to other newcomers and amaze them. Whoa, look how quickly time has flown by! We're already at the entrance to the Azorius sector."

Art turned his head upward to see a sudden shift in the style of the buildings. Where there once were plenty of homely, rectangular buildings home to citizens and police alike, now they were replaced by numerous, spindly spires, each a beautifully crafted work of art, which reached up into the heavens before ending at a large rotunda at the tops of each. This sector felt considerably more spacious. Whereas the Boros sector was quite utilitarian and populated, here the streets were for the most part clear of people.

All along the streets were pools of pristine water and thin aqueducts connecting them. Art looked down as his shoes splashed in water, then gaped in surprise as he saw that the entire network of streets was flooded in a thin layer of cool water, slightly moving in one direction, shimmering in the sunlight. The white marble streets over which the water serenely flowed rippled as the water distorted their appearances. White was everywhere, from the streets to the plentiful pools and fountains to the spindly spires and the narrow, elegant skywalks which connected them. The edges of the streets were paved with smooth, blue-tinted stone, as were the roofs and bases of the spires, completing the guild's colors. Off in the distance, several kids splashed around in in the ubiquitous water.

Art stopped his pace and took in a deep breath, enjoying the scenery of the urban utopia. Without realizing it, he had drawn upon white mana, a floating spark of pure white light shining out from within an opal on his bracelet. Although he prefered not to let others see it, at the moment he just didn't care.

This place was dazzlingly beautiful.

"Wow, this place is amazing," said Jessica absent-mindedly as she ogled the scenery.

"Here we are," said Justin with a big smile as the group approached one of the spires. Inside was an elevator; the team made several trips to get to the top. Everything was polished clean and all the students were breathless with amazement.

As the last batch of teenagers came up to the rotunda, they saw that it was mostly one large, round classroom, with row after row of tables arranged concentrically. There was almost no wall; large windows extended all around the rotunda in a series of bluish-tinted panes.

On each table was a packet of several sheets of paper. "All right, like I said, we're going to put you through a test. Each of you, take a seat. You have an hour to complete the questionnaire."

All the students went to a table as Justin waited silently by the corner of the room.

Art looked at the first question. It seemed simple enough.

1. The last time you cheated on a test, did you:

A. Suddenly realize that you were only thinking you cheated, which was strange because you never cheat.

B. Go outside to recuperate from the moral qualms of cheating.

C. Spend the next several hours diligently studying the test material you missed.

D. Think the proctor was bound to have noticed you were cheating but had decided to keep it to herself in order to give you an unpresent surprise later on.

E. Feel shameful about the other times you've done something moral without having thought it through - had you done so, you wouldn't have cheated.

Behavioral questions? Art thought to himself. If that was the case this wouldn't be too bad, since he knew very well what Azorius was looking for. After all, the guild was world-renowned for its tendency to resist change, and its guild colors, blue and white, gave enough hints about what it valued to begin with. White, for morality, and blue, for knowledge. But looking at the available options, Art realized that there were quite a few good answers, with the exception of (D). On second thought, (E) didn't seem like all that good of a choice. But as he couldn't decide between the first three, Art turned with apprehension to the next question.

2. When relationships between you and a friend break down, did you:

A. Immediately compromise with him/her successfully, so that It never stayed that way for long.

B. Invite him/her to go with you on a stroll where the two of you could work out your differences.

C. Try to appeal to all the shared experiences you had with one another.

D. Make friends with a book entitled "How to make and keep friends".

E. Offer a deal that if he/she were to make amends with you, that you'd help him/her do something you've never had the intention of doing before.

The only really bad answer here was (E). Once again, Art had no idea how to tackle this. Still having trouble, he looked at the following question, not having marked a single answer.

3. What do you like the least about school?

A. Single-student tests and homework assignments seize the limelight, putting collaborative team projects in the background.

B. The examples and theories presented in class are too idealistic to bear any semblance with reality.

C. Teachers don't make ample use of elaborate case studies to illustrate concepts, instead relying on vague hypotheticals.

D. Students all learn at different paces, whereas teachers can only teach at one speed, so there are always those who are falling behind and those who are getting bored.

E. The entire place trades sunlight for stale air, which can't be good for learning.

He didn't know if it was (B) or (E) that tipped him off, but it suddenly came to him how this quiz was organized. (B) was the answer that he knew would fit a guild like the blue/black Dimir - all shadowy and such, but incredibly pragmatic. And (E) was the answer that would work for green/white Selesnya - a quasi-heath aspect, which was clearly white, with the mention of sunlight and stale air, both references to nature, a green topic. All Art had to do now was to ascertain which guild each of the five choices related to, and pick the one that corresponded to Azorius. Looking at the choices again, Art decided that (A) was close to Azorius, though not perfectly; (C) was closest to the Gruul, which valued overt force, clear, physical power, etc. as opposed to other paradigms of power. The problem was with (D), since its point of view didn't match with any of the guilds. Art marked down his choice as (A).

This was quite clearly a behavioral test now - students would be expected to put down as an answer whichever one they subconciously found to be the best answer, which would of course give away their aligned colors without even knowing it.

Art then proceeded to the next question.

4. What type of job do you want the most?

A. A job where I can work together with others any time, all the time.

B. A job which provides the steady income and stability I need to support my family.

C. A job where the stream of new questions to answer and new problems to master never ends.

D. A job where a strict and fair hierarchy exists for the most deserving members to move up the ranks.

E. A job to which I can go to every day thinking there will be something interesting happening today.

(A) was clearly the Selesnya approach - working together with others all the time was key to its sense of community. (B) was definitely Azorius, so he marked that as his answer. (C) was Izzet, as per their fascination with new ideas and directions of exploration. (D) was also clearly Boros, since the Legion had one of the most complex organizational structures, and (E) was Izzet as well, a repeat which Art found a bit odd in a question with only room for five choices out of ten possible choices (one for each guild).

5. During your spare time, do you:

A. Go around town, making friends with everyone you encounter.

B. Learn something, anything, that can possibly of use later in life.

C. Volunteer to work for little or no pay so that you can get experience in a field you may want to make into your career.

D. Talk to your friends about what you had been up to since you last saw them.

E. Converse with your friends on some thinly drawn ivory tower debate.

(A) seemed to be Selesnya again. Art couldn't pinpoint (B), but (C) was definitely Boros. (D) would be another of those things that didn't fit. (E) was definitely Azorius, so he marked that as his answer; however, there seemed to be some problems with his approach.

Next, Art returned to the first question. However, aside from (E), all the answer choices seemed to be a blurry white perspective. Evidently this was not the way to tackle the problem either, so he turned to the next question for more ideas.

6. When you meet a beggar on the streets, do you:

A. Vow that you'll do something someday to resolve the poverty problem.

B. Try to teach them something they can use to support themselves, such as how to fish.

C. Tell them you contributed all your spare money to the local charity.

D. Realize that giving one money will result in many of them coming to live at your doorstep in an attempt to get more money.

E. Give them money so they'll leave and stop being an eyesore, and so that you'll feel like you did something good for everybody.

(B) and (C) both tipped him off to the fact that this wasn't about aligning each answer with a guild, but rather, with a color of magic - white, blue, black, red, and green. Five answers; one for each color. It all fit, especially with (B) being so clearly a blue approach to life (aka. one focused on knowledge procurement) and (C) being a definite white type (charity). Neither (B) nor (C) could reasonably be a guild in their own right. Art then looked at the other options. Of the five colors, (A) could actually be seen as red, since the idea was that every single time one went past a beggar one had that vow, but never did anything about it, which matched with red's tendency to be spontaneous and chaotic and yet forget about it in the long term. (D) was Dimir's pragmatism again, but in this setting it was all about keeping wealth to yourself and hence about being a miser. Black fitted that color the best, since it was all about self empowerment and use of any means to get to an end. (E) was an answer with a strange wording, but it matched with green's desire to make the world better for life and for its care to not only the beggars but also the people who had to walk past them all the time.

So there. One answer for each of the colors of mana. But Azorius, as all the guilds, had two colors, meaning that at any time two of the answers could be correct. That meant Art had to find another way to choose between (B) and (C), neither of which seemed all that much better than another considering Azorius' perspective. Finally, Art chose (C), since it had more to do with the law, Azorius' domain, than (B) did - after all, taxes were a bit like charity to an organization, were it not?

Now it was back to question one.

1. The last time you cheated on a test, did you:

A. Suddenly realize that you were only thinking you cheated, which was strange because you never cheat.

B. Go outside to recuperate from the moral qualms of cheating.

C. Spend the next several hours diligently studying the test material you missed.

D. Think the proctor was bound to have noticed you were cheating but had decided to keep it to herself in order to give you an unpresent surprise later on.E. Feel shameful about the other times you've done something moral without having thought it through - had you done so, you wouldn't have cheated.

(A) was white, (B) was green because of its reference to going outside and recuperating, (C) was blue, (D) was black because of its rampant suspicion, and (E) was actually red, the implication being that the person often made impulsive choices, which described red's desire for speed and instinct. The best choice here was (A), once again because of Azorius' relation with the legislative and judicial branches.

2. When relationships between you and a friend break down, did you:

A. Immediately compromise with him/her successfully, so that It never stayed that way for long.

B. Invite him/her to go with you on a stroll where the two of you could work out your differences.

C. Try to appeal to all the shared experiences you had with one another.

D. Make friends with a book entitled "How to make and keep friends".E. Offer a deal that if he/she were to make amends with you, that you'd help him/her do something you've never had the intention of doing before.

For question two, (A) was white because of the compromise, (B) was green because of the stroll, (C) was red because that was the color that cared about experiencing life, (D) was blue, and (E) was black, much like the white-black Orzhov guild, for the deal component. It came down to a choice of (A) or (D). (A) seemed unlikely considering how the Azorius took forever to get to a conclusion - not because the politicians were failures but because the guild was set up to work that way, as Art remembered from pictures of Azorius' maze-like signet. (D), however, was right - Azorius politicians and judges frequently pored over lots of text - miles and miles of red tape.

3. What do you like the least about school?

A. Single-student tests and homework assignments seize the limelight, putting collaborative team projects in the background.

B. The examples and theories presented in class are too idealistic to bear any semblance with reality.

C. Teachers don't make ample use of elaborate case studies to illustrate concepts, instead relying on vague hypotheticals.

D. Students all learn at different paces, whereas teachers can only teach at one speed, so there are always those who are falling behind and those who are getting bored.E. The entire place trades sunlight for stale air, which can't be good for learning.

With question three, (A) was a white answer, as it was all about collaboration. (B) was the classic blue/black answer, but Art couldn't tell which one it was. (C) was red, because a red-oriented person was the most likely to complain about a subject being amorphous and not directly experienceable. (D) was the blue answer, since it paid careful attention to knowledge acquisition, a definite blue-magic matter, and (E) was of course green. That meant that (B) was the black answer, and the choice was between (A) and (D). Now, in the world of politics negotiation and relations were key, which meant that the answer was (A).

4. What type of job do you want the most?

A. A job where I can work together with others any time, all the time.

B. A job which provides the steady income and stability I need to support my family.

C. A job where the stream of new questions to answer and new problems to master never ends.

D. A job where a strict and fair hierarchy exists for the most deserving members to move up the ranks.E. A job to which I can go to every day thinking there will be something interesting happening today.

(A) would be green/white, for its sense of community and collaboration. (B) seemed to be white for caring about the family and stability, and yet black because it focused on wealth acquisition. (C) was definitely blue, as per its endless thirst for knowledge. (D) was the clear white answer, comprising the other half of what made the militant Boros white-red. (E) was the red answer, for its particular use of the term "interesting" - a reference to experiencing. That meant (A) was green and (B0 was black. Of the blue and white answers, (C) seemed more befitting for the research-intensive Simic and Izzet than for a laid-back, status quo Azorius, which meant that the correct answer was (D). Art knew that, although the Azorius was generally viewed as not getting anywhere, it still had some semblance of dynamism to it, as all the colors did.

5. During your spare time, do you:

A. Go around town, making friends with everyone you encounter.

B. Learn something, anything, that can possibly of use later in life.

C. Volunteer to work for little or no pay so that you can get experience in a field you may want to make into your career.

D. Talk to your friends about what you had been up to since you last saw them.E. Converse with your friends on some thinly drawn ivory tower debate.

This seemed a bit trickier. (A) was definitely green/white. (B) was blue/black. (C) was white/blue. (D) was white/red. (E) was blue. That was the key, since it meant that (B) was black and (C) was white. (C) didn't seem like it had much to do with Azorius, whereas (E) was close to the political and ethical discussions and compromises that was evident throughout the guild.

Art looked at the next question with surprise and dread. It was long and complex, and it was one of the most feared questions of all time.

7. What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?

A. I've had trouble delegating duties to others because I felt I could do things better myself. This has sometimes backfired because I'd end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I've taken courses in time management and learned effective delegation techniques, and I feel I've overcome this weakness.

B. I tend to spend too much time thinking through the results and possible outcomes of something, only to miss another aspect or possibility. Recently I've been getting better at predicting with more accuracy and therefore to spend less time mulling over the issue.

C. I tend to have fewer friends and acquaintances than I would like to have. Realizing this problem, I have tried to be more active around people and engage them in conversation, go with them to events, and observe what the more popular people do around others so that I may imitate them.

D. I tend to pay overdue attention to details. Therefore I often spend too much time and end up being a perfectionist. However, over the years I've come to be able to differentiate the important, time-sensitive details from the others that can wait a while.

E. I tend to resolve issues I'm currently experiencing the same way I resolved issues I experienced in the past. I have worked hard to consider alternative resolutions and now spend more time thinking a problem through before I act.

All the answers had an initial weakness, often including its ramifications, and then a strength that developed from it, as did a lot of good answers to this question. But that also had a tendency to get people confused about what exactly was going on, and what the person was thinking. Art decided to focus on the weaknesses, figuring that a person couldn't entirely get rid of a great weakness even if they had tried. So for (A) the weakness was something a white oriented person would say, since it had to do with hierarchy. (B) was blue, since they tended to think and over-analyze a situation. (C) was a green answer. (D) was black with its attention to details and focus on importance. (E) was red, the implication being that one used one's past experiences as their primary source of guidance, very true in people who cared the most for their experiences. Both (A) and (B) mattered in governance, (A) in the form of government organization and hierarchy and (B) in the form of commissions determining if a bill was a good one. Art ultimately came to choose (B) and move on.

8. If Azorius had to add a third color to its existing colors, what should it be?

A. No-color

B. Gray

C. Black

D. Green

E. Red

Art sighed. After that ridiculously long question number seven, this one was a lot less of a strain on his eyes. Now, everybody knew that Azorius was white-blue. However, many people also knew that Azorius's signet had three colors, the third being red, for red tape. The problem, thought Art, was that the redness of red tape didn't have any meaning; of course it could have been used as merely a contrast. No-color was a good loophole-finding way of getting around the question by not really introducing a color and thereby affirming the status quo, which made sense, though perhaps it was too obvious an answer to be correct. Gray was the color of balance and fairness, which was crucial to Azorius in multiple ways. Art also knew that Azorius cared deeply for black's pragmatism, and in green's focus on the community, but those were rather weak connections since blue was also pragmatic and white was society-oriented. In the end he decided to go with (B), Gray.

9. How many of the above questions did you answer truthfully?

A. All that have truthful answers, since that's what the questions asked for.

B. More than that of anyone else here.

C. All of them, if you count the ones that were close to the truth.

D. All the questions I felt like answering - which would be all of them.

E. As many questions as I can get you to believe I answered truthfully.

Art found this spoof question to be rather entertaining, since they all pretty much said the same thing in various different, flavorful ways. (A) was white - doing exactly what one was told to do. (B) was green, focusing on others, more-ness, and being downright superior to them. (C) was the kind of mixed-up philosophical argument that befitted blue. (D) was red, for its feeling. And (E) was black in its approach, especially since it didn't really indicate that it answered a good number of questions truthfully. (A) was the kind of strict logic that befitted Azorius, but Art decided to go with (C), because in law and in court there were always plenty of situations where the line was fuzzy at best and where ambiguity ruled.

Art looked through the rest of the questionnaire. There were 25 more pages. Ten down, another 90 to go... Art adjusted his sitting position, realizing that he was about to be in for a long, long exam.

Finally, an hour and a half into the exam, Art turned the twenty-fifth page, expecting to see only one more question on the last page. What he found was:

Write an essay on the virtues and vices of stability and the status quo.

Wow, thought Art. A full-fledged essay! No wonder this "questionnaire" was going to take so long.

This was evidently an opportunity for all the candidates to show the hiring managers that their views coincided with that of the guild. As such, they were most likely to write abuot how the status quo was all that important to preserve as per the guild philosophy which everyone knew very well.

As Art knew however, the problem was that the Azorius also had an alternate view on the matter, one which was very well known within the guild but often didn't manage to trickle down to the general populace as much as the legendary slothiness of the Azorius. That was because this second concept was both less intuitive for the others to grasp and because it wasn't as evident as the fact that only a few dozen laws had changed in the past century. It was a concept that Art fully intended to exalt in his essay. And that, was the concept of dynamic equilibrium.

Another hour later, Art finished writing his two-page essay expounding the virtues (and mostly conveniently ignoring the vices) of the dynamic equilibrium model he knew Azorius followed. In that paper he had defined the two parallel models, static and dynamic equilibrium, contrasted the two, and revealed how the one could make up for the other's weakness in a particular aspect. He then gave examples of how this could be applied in the real world.

And his hand was aching very badly from writing so much.

About fifteen minutes after he had finished, Justin called out from the corner of the room, "Okay, time's up. Make sure your name is on the front of the packet, then follow me. Leave the tests here; after we're gone others will come in to grade them."

As the group filed back down the elevator to the ground level, Art found himself along with Andrew, Elad, Jessica and Lawrence again. "How did you fare?" he asked.

The others nodded. "It was all right," said Andrew.

"Though of course I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been so very long," added Elad.

"True, true," said Andrew.

Elad chuckled. "At least, when it comes to grading they'll have just as much work to do as what they gave us."

"How do you think they'll grade us?" asked Jessica.

Everyone looked at each other, wondering if someone else would go first. Art then spoke, "as long as you chose either a "blue" or a "white" answer for most of them, I think you'd have done fine."

"Well then, I think that's everybody," said Lawrence. "What a waste of time. I mean come on, everyone had to have realized that before long, with this being a behavioral test and all."

"It's quite possible that a few people didn't do it methodically however," said Art. "If it's the case that you had to score high on it to pass, some may not have made the cut."

The fivesome all nodded in agreement, though none of them solemnly. It would seem that all the members of this group had at least passed.

Stepping out of the spire's elevator, the group saw that the sun had moved downward quite a bit since they had last seen it. The water omnipresent on the ground still flowed as it had over three hours ago. Once outside, Justin turned to face the candidates. "Okay, we will now be traveling across much of the Azorius side of the First Wing. Stick close together. I wouldn't want you to get lost." Some people chuckled.

Pointing to the nearby spires, Justin said, "these are all the lowest of the spires, and are dedicated to residential purposes. Their rotundas are essentially on the third floor." As Justin explained, the touring group kept walking past these scores of buildings. "As they are removed from the ground, they are harder to break into for ordinary thieves, since the elevators require a key to operate. The all-white rotundas on these spires, essentially houses, have plenty of large windows, as you may have noticed while you were taking the test. They also have doors that connect them to the skywalks on level with the rotundas. These have been built this way since the grand blueprint for the city was laid out over one hundred years ago when it was first built, and they haven't changed much since then.

"The inspiration was that we, the Azorius, from our high positions as legislators and other related persons removed from the rest of society, would keep watch over the happenings below. The roundness of the structures symbolize the sense of equilibrium, cycling, and endless continuity, and the thin support provided by the spires' stem reflects the need to keep balance in all things we do, lest we come tumbling down." 







Justin turned to the group and announced, "Next, we want to make sure you can all at least do the bare basics, by which I mean draw mana from a blue and a white source of mana simultaneously. If you need a mana ring or two just ask and we'll them to you for the purposes of this test. Now, all of you who have an Azorius signet, stand on the far wall." 

Several of them went to the other side of the room, but the majority remained. Art thought to himself that maybe this would be his opportunity to finally get an Azorius signet. He hadn't been able to get one before because Azorius never had a presence aboard Aelindor.

ustin watched as the candidates without the signets meditated before him one by one, slowly drawing their mana. Some did it with their eyes closed. Most, however, simply looked at him and seconds later a sparkling light, either white or blue, shone from within a gemstone they bore. Everyone took a different amount of time, some taking a mere fifteen seconds to meditate for both units of mana and others taking over a minute. All the while Justin was enigmatically writing away on a clipboard notes about these students.

Soon it was Art's turn. "Name?" asked Justin.

"Art."

"Good. Proceed."

Without shutting his eyes, he let his mind wander off to the view from the balcony of the residential tower he called home. Only a few hours ago he had been standing there, gazing off into the eternal sea, letting the wind blow past him. He could never forget that place, where he had often gone to spend his time.

In six seconds a shifting blue spark of light emanated from the first sapphire on his bracelet.

Once a source of mana had been locked in, one didn't have to worry about it for at least a few minutes. However, one could usually not draw more than one unit of mana from any one source. Now Art shifted his concentration to his school in Aelindor, recalling all the events and incidents that had happened to him there with fondness.

It took only six more seconds before a second wandering spark of light, this time white, shone forth from out of its opaline residence.

Satisfied, Art raised his wrist for Justin to see. The man nodded with the smile of a pleasant surprise written on his face, then took out a triangular signet from a box right beside him. It was colored in blue though with red lines outlining it and depicting a circular maze inscribed in the equilateral triangle.

Art knew enough about Azorius to know what the image represented. It embodied a core principle of the Azorius guild and just about everything about it, including its laws and the interview he was currently going through, by far the most lengthy and complicated of that of any guild - strict structure designed to test wills and stall change.

Justin intoned cheerfully, "Congratulations, Art. you have earned the privilege of bearing an Azorius signet. This concludes your initiation into our guild."

Not a single person here was unsuccessful. Andrew, Art, Elad, Jessica, and Lawrence turned to smile at each other, silently congratulating each other. After everyone was done, Justin said, "the first leg of this process is complete. Now I will assign each of you an interviewer, and the room to go to."






Then his eyes turned to face a lone man standing right in the front of the building, adorned in blue and white robes. In this active street, he stood out like a sore thumb amidst a veritable sea of moving people. Art began to walk toward him. A good, closer look at him told him all he needed to know. He had seen him before during his interview, using the telecommunications device created by the Izzet guild. This Azorius man was both his interviewer and his contact. With a smile on his face and mind whirling with ideas for conversation-starters, Art walked up expectantly to the waiting official.






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