The Armada comics line was suddenly cancelled by the Acclaim higher-ups, thus the already solicited Alliances comic never made it to the shops. Which is a shame, as it would've contained a pivotal moment for the overarching storyline. (The Armada comics were published out of chronological order, so we've still got six series to review before we get to the real victims of the cancellation: "Prelude to War" and "The Planeswalker War", which would've wrapped up the series.) Because of its importance, and since we can piece together the main plot of the comic pretty well from the solicitations, the Story of the Battlemage Ravidel and comments from Jeff Gomez, I've decided to give a quick overview of it before moving on with the actually published material.
Let's start with that solicitation.
Hurray, more Jaeuhl! I'm glad he captured the imagination of more people than just me. He's even featured on a bunch of flavor text in Alliances! We learn a little more about his and Kaysa's plight from Jeff Gomez's farewell to the comics line in Urza-Mishra War #2.
Note that this mentions the Carthalion mixing with that of the Elder Druids, but Carth the Lion from Dakkon Blackblade already had the crescent moon symbol on his face. So it's probably more a case of the bloodline being reunited. The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel (TSOTBR) adds the following...
"Across Dominaria the warming climate caused major flooding. The unnatural speed with which the planet struggled out of the Ice Age causes violent storms which only add to the inhabitant's misery. On Terisiare the city of Soldev is crushed by rampaging artifact creatures. The nations of Kjeldor and Balduvia attempt to find peace in the face of the encroaching floods whilst Fyndhorn forest is lost beneath the waves and the countryside consumed with plague. Escaping this catastrophe a convoy of Elves escape to the Yavimaya forest led by Kaysa, the new elder druid and Jaeuhl Carthalion, now the leader of the Juniper Order Advocates, a knightly order of Kjeldor dedicated to strengthening ties to the Elves. Unfortunately for the Elves the forest is inhabited by a malign sentience which takes a dislike to visitors. After an epic struggle, peace was made with the intelligent Yavimayan apes, and the Elves were allowed to settle. Jaeuhl and Kaysa had a child, and the Carthalion lineage continued. With the end of the floods Terisiare is no longer a true continent. The flood waters and oceans have flowed into the gashes left by the glaciers and filled the cavernous strip mines left by the Brother's War. Terisiare is reduced to an extensive archipelago and many of its greatest treasures are lost beneath the waves. "The interesting thing is that despite the comic never being released, this is probably still in continuity! In the novel The Shattered Alliance none other than Jaya Ballard says she accompanied the elves that fled from Fyndhorn (which isn't fully lost beneath the seas, but turned into a swampy island) on their trek to Yavimaya. Also in that novel we'll see the destruction of Soldev that TSOTBR mentions. So as far as I'm concerned this all still happened. Any excuse to get more Jaeuhl into the canon. Though it's kinda saddening that his snark-off with Jaya happened off screen.
Quick note: Zazdor, a storyline guru who you might remember if you hung around on the MTGNews and MTGSalvation storyline forums a few years ago, was allowed to see the unwritten plot of Alliances. Thanks to him we know that Jaya Ballard was originally going too be a man!
|No info on whether he would still have been wearing goggles.|
The Shattered Alliance doesn't go very deep in its description of Jaya's involvement with the trek to Yavimaya, so I have no more details to share. Jeff Gomez thought that the "malign sentience" may have been a hint that Tevesh Szat was returning, though he admits he isn't sure on that. Zazdor can't find Szat in the unpublished script, so probably not. It would've been nice to hear from Szat though, since he kinda goes missing from the story after Shandalar, only popping back up in the Planeswalker War. (My headcanon: after being defeated in Ice Age and Shandalar he throws a hissy fit and spend the next millennium sulking in that plane of perpetual darkness we see him inhabiting in Invasion.)
That "pivotal moment for the overarching storyline" I mentioned came from the other strand of the comic, the one dealing with Taysir and Kristina. Here's some info on that from the Homelands comic. (Specifically in the final paragraph on the first page. Note that the second page has huge spoilers for the Homelands comic itself, so stop reading after the first part if you're reading along with the blog!)
The story here goes directly from him being spurned by Kristina to the events of Homelands. TSOTBR gives us a bit more, showing Taysir taking Ravidel as an apprentice, as well as telling us what happened to Leshrac after he left Shandalar.
"As the Shard dissolved back into the continuum of Dominia, Taysir revealed his wish that Kristina use her power to take them both to his home world of Rabiah. After some analysis, Kristina realized that, while she can indeed do this, it would certainly be a one way trip for them both!
Unfortunately for Taysir, Kristina did not wish to continue their alliance into the stars. She did not want to become Taysir's betrothed, nor did she wish to spend the rest of her extremely long life on Rabiah. She wished to journey far away from Dominaria on her own, and enjoy her freedom.
[[the bit about Kaysa and Jaeuhl goes here]]
Ravidel might well have become just another minor planeswalker-and this war might never have happened-if it were not for Taysir. Frustrated in his desire to return to Rabiah by Kristina's refusal, Taysir eventually found Ravidel and took him on as his apprentice. Taysir is one of the most powerful planeswalkers known to the Serra, and his tutelage caused Ravidel to grow in power exponentially. Taysir sought a way back to Rabiah, and Ravidel reminded him that one way of doing so was to steal the life energy of another planeswalker, as Faralyn did on the Null Moon.
Ravidel kept pushing Taysir to act on this notion, and finally Taysir agreed. He decided to avenge the breaking of the Treaty of the Shard by pursuing Leshrac and Tevesh Szat, and executing them. He would use their energy as a by-product to return to Rabiah. Taysir and Ravidel found Leshrac first, and trapped him by means unknown in the clockwork hell of Phyrexia. Unfortunately the conceived prison would not render the required power to Taysir, who abandoned the trapped Leschrac. Of Tevesh Szat there was no sign.
Taysir, discouraged, eventually tired of his plan and cut Ravidel loose to continue as he saw fit. Ravidel took this to mean he was entering a new phase of his apprenticeship, and began a series of conquests throughout the multiverse, collecting artifacts and perfecting his dueling skills, all in Taysir's name. Twisting Taysir's desire to bring justice to evil beings like Tevesh Szat and Leshrac, Ravidel launched a long-term plan to turn Dominaria, especially Corondor, into a raging battleground. It was his hope that enough misery and destruction would act as a beacon for Szat, bringing him home so Ravidel could destroy him in Taysir's name. In the process, Ravidel himself would gain revenge on all the beings who had ever betrayed him.
Returning to Dominaria, he crossed paths with the Ash Warlord Embereck, one of that world's most powerful planeswalkers, and they dueled over the fabled Argivian Sylex amidst the submerged ruins of a city in Terisiare. In the end, a bargain was struck, and Ravidel escaped with the Sylex.
Ravidel would return only every few decades to learn once again at the feet of Taysir. As the storms subsided on Dominaria, civilizations rose anew (Kjeldor and Balduvia - after some centuries - united to become New Argive), but the struggle for survival amidst vast deserts and thawing wastelands continued. This was the time of the Robaran Mercenaries, and of legends such as their leaders, Adira Strongheart, and the Cat Warrior Jedit Ojanen."Zazdor tells me this story actually wasn't in the Alliances plot, but in another comic, presumably the also cancelled Prelude to War. In the plot of that comic (And yes, I'm as jealous of Zaz for having been allowed to see all those plots as I am grateful for him sharing this information with us) Leshrac actually isn't imprisoned in Phyrexia, but in Estark! It is then revealed that his imprisonment led to that region being suffused with magical power, which in turn lead to the creation of the houses from Arena! Which would have been a pretty amazing connection between the Harper Prism and Armada stories!
Of course, that story was never published, only the Phyrexia story was print. While I've been criticizing TSOTBR in pretty much every Armada review I've done, I do think we should take an actually published source over scripts we can only hear about from second hand. Still, if we want we could postulate that Taysir first imprisoned Leshrac in Estark, somehow enhancing that land with his power, then later putting him in Phyrexia. The way the timeline plays out there is a gap of about 140 years between Leshrac's appearance in Shandalar and the first attested Festival of Estark in which Leshrac could be captured, and his next appearance isn't until the Planeswalkers' War. Plenty of opportunity to move him.
I've long wondered about Ravidel's apprenticeship to Taysir. If he has such hate for Kristina for resurrecting him, why would he agree to follow Taysir, who helped Kristina in that very same resurrection? Jeff Gomez has the following explanation for that:
"I always saw Taysir as having a pretty deep character flaw around empathy, so while Ravidel had some respect for Taysir as a master, and would not have made him the focal point of his early thirst for vengeance, Taysir would have ultimately fallen into Ravidel's cross hairs (it would have been as late in the game as possible, because Taysir was so powerful and was his teacher after all)."A pretty sound explanation I think. We'll certainly see Taysir take a turn for the darker in the coming weeks.
|He gets a bit emo after Kristina leaves, that's for sure.|
This leaves one big question: when did all this happen? Well, we can't give it a definite date, but the Kaysa/Jaeuhl story has to happen between the Shandalar comic and The Shattered Alliance. That novel happens 20 years after the World Spell, so Alliances goes on the timeline as "Between 2934 and 2954". The Kristina/Taysir stuff I imagine also happening in that period. It may not have made it into the final Alliances script, but TSOTBR clearly has it happen at the same time as the Kaysa/Jaeuhl stuff. It also makes sense that it would happen shortly after the Ice Age story as in that comic there is already mention of Taysir wanting to show Kristina his homeworld.
The imprisonment of Leshrac is trickier. We can only really say it has to happen between Kristina leaving Taysir and the events of the Homelands comic, which is quite a gap (and Homelands will be a tricky placement itself.) If we take do assume that Leshrac was imprisoned in Estark, at least for a while, then the placement can be narrowed down quite a bit, since we know the Festival of Estark started around 3070. While I don't think the Estark imprisonment is still canon (As published sources trump unpublished ones), I do think this early placement has merit, as TSOTBR clearly talks about all this as happening during the time of Alliances and before the Gathering of the Sages of Minorad. For now I'm going to put it as happening before 3070, with a "probably" qualifier, but that might change in the future, when I'll have to place the Gathering of the Sages of Minorad (in a couple of weeks) or when I cover the revisionist duration of Alliances/the Flood Age (Quite a while into the future) for example.
That's all I can say about Alliances, the comic that was never released, yet was actually pretty important. Next time we'll look, as that last TSOTBR quote hinted, at the delightfully named Legend of Jedit Ojanen on the world of Magic: the Gathering!