How Killers Are Made
Part One

Joshua Olsen’s Cantrips & Catastrophies
A Magic: the Gathering Fan Fiction short story

The orange sun blazed lazily in the Jundian sky, bathing the land in a relentless tide of tropical heat. Among other things, its savage and uncaring gaze fell on a Thrash of Viashinos as they slowly trudged their way through the thick jungle and up the side of one of Jund’s hundreds of mountains. The Flame Thrash was on the move. As one of the largest groupings of Viashinos on the whole plane, The Flame Thrash boasted a whole 16 members plus it’s elder. Even so, the assembled members didn’t allow themselves the illusion that they were safe. There was no such thing as true safety in Jund.

“That blade getting a little heavy for you Kas? Or maybe the other one?” spoke one of the Viashino youths, Raz. He held out his hand to hoist his friend up a short ledge, who was unable to climb the ledge due to each of his hands being used to grip the hafts of a jagged stone weapon, one a crude cleaver, the other an even cruder spiked club.

Multicolor- Carrion Thrash


“And let you get your hands on Rip or Tear? You’d like that wouldn’t you? Just keep on walking before I leave you for the Nyxathrids to eat,” replied Kas good-naturedly, allowing Raz to grab the shaft of his axe. With a pull from one Viashino and a jump from the other, Kas easily boosted up the ledge, and kept walking. “C’mon, we’re falling behind. Let’s get a move on.”

Minutes later the duo had followed the path smashed through the dense foliage by others before them, steadily heading geographically up. As they skirted around a huge swath of vines they found Shaman Nixl holding back. As they drew closer he gestured for them to be quiet. “Stay your mouths. A challenge is on the winds. Aka’s blood is up.”

The three Viashino huddled over at the edge of the jungle, where the vegetation started to grudgingly give way to the sheer volcanic rock of the mountainside. Thrash-member Aka stood a short distance from Elder Drassom. Aka was clearly agitated, shaking his lguanar-Skull Mallet with every few words. His voice carried on the wind.

“…we fled, like goblin runts! All because of a few balls of roiling mulch! You should be ashamed.”

Land- Savage Lands (Promo)

By contrast, Drassom’s words were more measured. He had been Elder of the Flame Thrash for a long time, and his life had been a long one, a nearly unheard of 12 years of age that spoke of his experience and desire for survival.

“The Saprolings would have overrun and consumed us if we had stayed. I am no coward, we could have fought them off if it had come to it, but a Mycoloth was following in their path. If we had stayed we would have perished.”

Aka spat a blob of phlegm onto the ground, where it sizzled against the subterranean heat. “An Elder who flees before a piece of roving fungus is no elder at all! We should not have left the valley! Any moment now a Dragon could spot us, exposed like this. You made us move, endangered us all. I say you have no right to lead the Flame Thrash! I, Aka challenge you Drassom!”

The Thrash gathered around Shaman Nixl, excited despite their long day of trekking. A challenge could end only one way. The crowd settled in to watch.

Red- Thunder-Thrash Elder

The fight was not outwardly fair; Drassom was physically larger and more experienced than his opponent. Aka for his part, was a dirty fighter, and showed it by launching himself at the Eldar before he even had time to draw his weapon, a great obsidian blade called Slayer. The Mallet lumbered through the air with terrifying force, more than enough to pulverise bone, and Drassom ducked to avoid it. Aka followed through his wild haymaker by twisting into slap of his powerful tail, catching

Drassom on the side of the head and pushing him back a step. Aka continued to attack, reversing his momentum and launching another low attack with his mallet, this time catching Drassom in the gut. The gut strike had almost no power compared to the all-or-nothing of his first attack, but it winded the Elder, who let out a wheeze as the breath was knocked out of him.

On the sidelines, Kas caught his breath too. Was the Elder actually in trouble? Kas had little love for Aka, even aside from the lack of attachment most Thrash members had for each other, (a useful skill on a world where most humanoids were lucky to live to see their 8th birthday) Kas had always found Aka to be arrogant and obnoxious. The thought of him making the decisions for the Thrash was unpleasant to say the least.

And it did seem as though Drassom was in trouble. The Elder was staggering back, clutching his stomach and wheezing. Aka was closing in, roaring his ascension. He raised the mallet back for a killing blow, his opponent never even having had time to draw his blade.

Suddenly Drassom shot forward like a dragon’s dive bomb, he barrelled in low with arms outstretched and crashed into Aka in a running tackle and held him as he continued to run. Running with his grappled opponent held up close he didn’t seem to be very winded at all. In panic, Aka tried to bring his mallet down on the Elder’s back to break the grab, but Drassom had seized his challenger’s wrist in a grip powerful enough to stress bone to prevent exactly that. A second later Drassom slammed Aka into a nearby boulder. Aka was stunned, slumping down as his world spun violently. Drassom quickly picked the younger challenger with both hands and hurled him bodily away, causing him to crash not far from where the rest of the Thrash was watching. Moaning with pain and nausea Aka could do nothing as Drassom grabbed him by the head and pulled him up to his shaky feet. Drassom withdrew Slayer out of the notch on his vine-made belt.

“I feigned weakness Aka,” the Elder spat to his challenger’s face. Then he rammed Slayer into Aka’s stomach, forcing the blade deep in and twisting. “But you are weak. And we can’t afford to have weakness in this Thrash.”

Aka was fading fast, blood spewing from the mortal wound in his stomach. Even so, he was still alive as Drassom leant in and with lightning speed, tore Aka’s throat out with a powerful wrench of his razor-toothed jaws. Blood spraying everywhere, Aka fell, never to get up again.

Drassom let his challenger fall, Aka’s gore staining his mouth crimson. He raised Slayer up high and roared with bloodlust, beating his chest triumphantly.

“Looks like the source of our next meal’s solved boys! Meat’s on the menu!”

The Flame Thrash went wild for their leader, the Viashinos letting out roars of their own and waving their weapons with gusto. Kas clashed Rip and Tear together, gratified at the sparks cascading off the impacts. He was proud to be Part of the Flame Thrash, proud to be a warrior under Eldar Drassom. Kas looked Raz in the eyes and winked at his friend. This was the life.

And then the roar split Kas’ world open.

In an eyeblink, The Thrash’s mood changed from jovial to terrified.


A shadow swiftly passed over the assembled Viashino as something huge blocked out the very sun for a moment. A ear-splitting roar echoed through the air. Instinctively, Kas and the others looked over to Drassom for guidance.

“HELLKITE!! Out of the forest!”

Red- Predator Dragon

The Viashinos pelted out of the forest as quick as they could run. A moment later the circling dragon made an attack run on their position. With an unearthly hiss a huge patch of forest transformed into blazing pyre. Countless small predators cried out in agony as their bodies were consumed by scorching heat, and the scent of charred meat filled the air. Kas hit the rock as the heatwash knocked him from his feet.

A Hellkite. Just when they weren’t doomed enough as is.

A hand grabbed Kas’ shoulder, hauling him up to his feet, even as he coughed to get the smoke out of his mouth. Next thing Kas knew he was running.

“Move it! Into the cave! We can’t stay here!”

Elder Drassom’s voice cut through the chaos like a knife, gave the Viashinos something to rally behind. Drassom stood at the mouth of a large cave. Viashinos tended not to venture into caves, there was a whole different array of things to eat them in there, but they had no choice: out in the open the Dragon would consume them all, easy as falling off a log and into a Thrinax’s mouth.

As Kas’ legs pumped with desperation, devouring the distance between himself and the cave mouth, he could feel the rush of air that meant the dragon was closing in on them again. If his eyes could shed tears in this volcanic enviroment, Kas would do so. There was nothing he could do as death swooped in for him, but keep running and hope that it wasn’t him that was taken.

As fate would have it, it wasn’t him. As they ran, Kas could hear a scream and a crunch as Zol was wrenching screaming into the sky, born aloft by the Dragon’s maw. And then it came back.

By the time the Flame-Thrash had made it to the cave’s entrance, three of their number had died gruesome deaths. But there was no time to mourn that fact. No time for anything but survival.

Without hesitation the Thrash ran into the depths of the cave, using the small amount of light coming in from outside to guide their way. Behind t hem the Hellkite made to pursue, roaring with rage that its prey would dare to try and escape.

Caves of Koilos


The cave was sharply narrowing the further they went in. At the entrance it had been cavernous, more than enough room for the dragon to move through, but now it was only four or so times their height. If it continued to narrow like this, the dragon would be unable to fit, and they might be able to find another way out, or at least wait the creature out. They were moving slower now as the light became increasingly dim. Behind them the cave vibrated to the sounds of the Hellkite as it pursued them. It was still after them, hungry for their flesh. It took a lot of Viashino meat to sate a hungry dragon.

The cave was narrowing sharply now. Up ahead there was a yellowy glow coming from under a large rock protrusion. The protrusion was narrow so low that they’d have to stoop to get under it. There was no way the Hellkite could get at them there! There night even be a way out of the cave system.

Kas let out a huge sigh of relief as he jogged the last few metres to the crevice. He leapt onto his side, sliding the last few metres under the crevice on his tough scales, and was enveloped in the pale light. As his eyes adjusted from the almost pitch-black of the cave to the yellowy light of the crevice, Kas stood. His chest heaved with the exertion of the past few minutes. He was alive! His blood still flowed in his veins, and his body still had breath in it. He was safe. He was alive! It was going to be okay!

Then his eyes adjusted to the light level and Kas looked around. He let out a frustrated moan. He wasn’t in a crevice. The walls and roof were covered in some kind of mould that glowed in the dark, filling the air with enough light to clearly see in. That yellow glow betrayed the cavernous space that the Flame-Thrash now stood in. It was a huge cavern, big enough to easily fit a Dragon. Like the Dragon that was moments behind them. The cavern was sealed, the only entrance or exit to it the one they had just come through. They were trapped.

Kas swore a long and angry oath, but none of the Thrash heard it as a huge impact rocked the wall they had just moved under. The Dragon was behind them, and it was breaking the rock down to get at them. Another colossal crash and cracks started to appear in the stone. The Hellkite was enraged; it was coming for them no matter what. Their deaths were assured.

“Thrash! To me!” Elder Drassom called over the sound of the impacts and the falling rock. The Viashinos gathered around their leader. Drassom drew out Slayer with as much reverence as he could muster. In the dim light the sword looked to be made from pure blackness. Drassom pointed the blade’s jagged edge towards the quaking rock wall. When he spoke it was in a booming voice that seemed to make him stand twice as tall.

“Our doom comes for us! Our doom comes for us now, and I say we be ready for it! We will die with a battle-cry in our throats and a weapon clenched in our fists! Once that wall breaks down, I want to see no Viashino shy away from his fate. We may die today, Flame Thrash. Jund may belong to the Dragons, the accused tyrants of flame. We may be the prey, and they the predators. But I say to you, you who have bled and fought and killed and feasted beside me…. I say that the next time this dragon sees a Thrash to prey on; it will remember us in its scars! It will remember that we, we of the thousands it has conquered, did not submit, did not go down without a fight! And for a moment, it will know fear!”

Another impact rocked the wall, and a chunk of the rock came away. A great reptilian eye swivelled into the hole, its pupil contracting as it bored into them. There was hunger in that eye, terrible hunger. The Hellkite gave a roar, shaking the carven. When it was done, Drassom roared back with all the might he could muster, his roar reverberating off the cavern walls till it sounded as though the dragon had been challenged by another of its kind.

Destructive Urge

For a second, silence filled the cavern as the Dragon’s eye withdrew. The calm before the storm. The Viashinos drew their weapons, some with nervousness, some with anticipation.

Then, it was over. With a tremendous crash that dwarfed all before it, the Hellkite’s horned, armoured head smashed through the sheer rock, its huge body following it through. The Dragon’s massive armoured body filled the hole it had made. It was easily the biggest creature on Jund, with a huge maw that could almost swallow a Viashino whole. The huge impact stunned it for a second, and it shook its head and snorted in irritation as it regained its  senses.

The slight pause gave Drassom the only chance he needed.


Multicolor- Suicidal Charge 2

As one, the Flame-Thrash did just that. Howling with a combination of rage and hysteria, the Viashinos took the fight to the Dragon, wielding an array of brutal weapons made from stone and bone. It was akin to a colony of ants attacking a scorpion. The Viashino’s spread out to surround and assail the Dragon from multiple angles, and battle was joined. Only one side could emerge alive.

Kas was of course in the thick of it. With Thrash members on either side he swung Rip and Tear as hard as he could. Each blow landed, but failed to penetrate the Dragon’s scales. It was like trying to cut into a boulder. Kas struck again, and again, and again, hacking and chopping with all his strength, but each time the Dragon’s natural armour stopped his weapons from doing any damage. Looking around he could see his Thrash-members were having similar problems. The dragon had recovered now, and had wasted no time in stamping on Rok, crushing his body to bloody pulp. As it withdrew its foreleg it gave a pained snarl and Beh gave a triumphant cry, his speartip covered in Dragon blood as he wrenched it out.

“Aim for its underbelly! The scales are weaker….”

Beh’s scientific revelation was cut short as the Dragon twisted its head and snapped him up, biting him clean in half. Roaring, it turned its head to focus on Shaman Nixl, who was standing before it, and opened its jaws wide, preparing to immolate him where he stood. Shaman Nixl held his staff in both hands, and pointed it at the dragon, chanting his words of power. Desperation must have leant his magic power, as his hands sparked with electricity and Nixl thrust them at the Dragon, unleashing a bolt of lightning. The air sizzled and crackled with static as the lightning arced across the air and struck home, blasting a fist sized chunk of flesh out, and leaving a smoking crater of the surrounding area.

Red- Barbed Lightning

The Dragon howled with pain, thrashing its huge body around. The thrashing intensified as the rest of the Thrash put the departed Beh’s knowledge to use: hacking at the Dragon’s underbelly and weaker areas they started to hurt it. Kas for his part drew both his weapons up and swung both down in a sidewards chop, precise accuracy not required against such a huge target. His club still failed to break the skin, but his cleaver punctured the scales and rewarded Kas with a slight spray of blood. Kas dropped his club, gripping Rip’s handle with both hands and tried to push the head in deeper. They were hurting it! Actually hurting it!

Two of the Thrash had situated themselves near the Dragon’s rear, using spears to jab at the legs. The Hellkite’s tail swung around like a battering ram, sweeping them aside like they were leaves. The force of the blow pitched them across the cavern, where they collided with the walls. They dropped, a pile of shattered bones.

Shaman Nixl, perhaps emboldened by his earlier staring down the Dragon head-on and living, once again unleashed lightning. This time he hit the wing, vaporising a large part of the bat-like membrane. The Dragon responded with its other wing, swinging it around like a scythe. One of the bony spurs that tipped the outer edges of the wing caught Nixl, impaling him through the chest. The Shaman’s staff clattered to the ground as the Shaman, his hands as empty of electricity as his eyes were of life, was lifted into the air.

As another blade pierced its skin, the Dragon had evidently had enough. Bellowing in frustration, it surged forward, stomping ahead like a juggernaut. One of the Thrash was too slow and was trod on, trampled into the floor. The rest of the Viashinos were tossed around by the raw force of the scaly behemoth. The Hellkite wheeled around when it had cleared its attackers, hissing with malice. It was more than hungry now, it was wounded and mad.

“Quickly Thrash! Charge it! Keep in close!” Bellowed Drassom, picking himself up and lurching forward. As deadly as the Hellkite was up close, it was a lot more so if it could get some distance between itself and its prey. The Thrash were on their feet and after him in a heartbeat, closing the distance.

It wasn’t fast enough. The dragon opened its great jaws wide, and a thick stream of blistering, searing heat screamed forth from them, sweeping across in a wall of flame. Drassom dived forward with the no-time-to-think-about-it reflexes of one who has lived a life of constant danger, but the others weren’t so lucky. It swept through the ragged line of charging Viashinos, transforming the majority of the remaining Flame-Thrash from bellowing warriors to wailing pyres in a snap. The smell of roasting meat overpowered the stench of blood in the cavern.

Kas had fallen behind the others when the fire struck, having taken a moment to grab both Rip and Tear before moving. Only positioning saved him from a hideous death. Instead the fires roared up mere paces in front of him, the crackle and heat of the flames as terrifying and powerful as the beast that had generated it. The sudden flare of brightness from the fire’s light was intense, and Kas cowered for a second as his retinas tried to compensate. Running on instinct he covered his eyes to block out of some the glare. The wall of fire was thick, impenetrable… he couldn’t see through. Somewhere beyond the barrier was the Hellkite, and the other Thrash-Members. Suddenly something moved and the fire flickered. Kas’ instincts flared again, something was coming at him. He turned to run, and it was probably that which stopped the Dragon’s tail from shattering his body like an old tree trunk.

Red- Ancient Hellkite

The Hellkite’s tail slammed into Kas, battering him with the ferocity of a rockslide and knocking Kas off his feet. Laden with momentum the Viashino obeyed gravity and crashed back into the floor at speed, skull meeting rock in a collision that was not good for the former. As he came to a stop Kas’ vision shimmered with trauma. His head ached and all he was assailed with the all-consuming urge to lay down and sleep. Blackness gnawed at the edge of his vision, and he tasted blood, not the invigorating tang of a bite of fresh prey, but the coppery foulness of his own fluids. Kas tried to stand, to get back into the fight, but nausea overwhelmed him and his legs folded, sending him crashing sideways onto the cavern floor. Time seemed to lose its constant pace, winding down slowly like the setting sun. Kas heard the furious roaring of the Dragon, and the equally furious screaming of Drassom, both so full of hate and fear that the difference between the animal and the ally could be found only in their volume. As his vision swam out of focus, he watched detachedly as Raz ran over to him, eyes creased with brotherly concern. He was yelling something, but Kas couldn’t pick it up.

Then, a stream of dragonfre whipped across Kas’ stationary vision, catching Raz across the back. Raz instantly fell to his knees with a muted cry. A second later his head turned back to stare at Kas. One side of his face was a melted mess, the scales cracking open with weeping blood. The eye was gone, buried under a mass of fused tissue. Smoke steamed off his back, but Raz didn’t scream from the pain. As Kas watched, Raz held out a shaking hand. Struggling against his approaching unconsciousness, Kas made his stubborn arm move in reply, forcing it centimetre by centimetre closer to Raz.

Red- Pyrohemia

It wasn’t a request for help; they both knew their situation was beyond that. It was an urge to reassure a brother-in-arms that when the end came they weren’t alone. Kas didn’t know what lay on the other side of death’s embrace; a life of fighting for life had left little time for introspection about, well anything really. But at least he was going there with his bond-brother, together.  Raz spoke, a single word, but Kas couldn’t hear him. He was almost there, brushing the tip of the hand with his own. Then his friend, who Kas had known since he was a youngling, slumped over and died. Cruelly it was only then that the darkness took him.

To Be Continued

Joshua Olsen