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The Brothers' War
Terisiare.jpg
Publishing Information
Author(s) Kathy Ice
First printing May 1994
First appeared in The Duelist #1 Supplement, alongside the map titled "A History of Antiquities"
Preceded By
N/A
Followed By
N/A

The Brothers' War was a presented as a translation by Kathy Ice of an in-multiverse peer-reviewed essay. It appeared in The Duelist #1 supplement in May 1994.[1]

Ildria Caldos presents several theories regarding the veracity of the story of the war between Urza and Mishra, and Farsa Tashiir criticizes many of her points.[1]

"This, then, was the brothers’ struggle. It began in early childhood, was crystallized by their rivalry for a woman, and ended in chaos and destruction. The aftermath of the war was to last for many hundreds of years, eventually plunging much of civilized world into an Age of Darkness." - Ildria Caldos[1]

Points[]

The following points are presented by Caldos in her essay. Caldos and Tashiir exchanged and reviewed the article several times before it was published with both their comments.[1]

The Videnthian Theory[]

The locations of ancient Argive, Ronom Lake, and Terisia are challenged for the distance from Argive to Terisia. Argoth's size made it unlikely to be completely forested and also unlikely to have been completely destroyed in a single cataclysm.[1]

The Videnthian Theory (which supposes the war took place at Greater Videnth and Little Videnth Island instead of Terisiare and Argoth) provides a more likely premise for the destruction of Argoth, though still improbable on such a large scale. New Argive and the Kher Ridges are therefore likely to have been named for the Videnthian equivalents.[1]

Criticism[]

Tashiir held that travel technology was advanced enough for the military journey to be possible from Argive to Terisia. The distance required for migration from Videnth to Terisiare would also have been significantly greater than the distance Caldos had labeled "absurd" for ancient travel. Moreover, there are no Kher Ridges, Sardian Mountains, or Ronom Lake to be found in Greater Videnth. As for the destruction of Argoth, Urza and Mishra certainly possessed great enough power.[1]

Caldos further upheld her theories by explaining foot soldiers were used who could not travel such distances, which were obviously different from a migration. Erosion could explain the disappearance of geographic features in Videnth, but the disappearance of an entire continent the size of Argoth was out of the question regardless of the brothers' power.[1]

Young Urza and Mishra[]

Urza and Mishra were likely born in Argive and orphaned at an early age. They would have to have begun their magic at a very early age in order to become apprentices to Tocasia before Urza was ten. Tocasia brought her two shining students on her pilgrim visit to the Caves of Koilos. The boys were about 16 years old then. The Mightstone and Weakstone they discovered there, as well as other artifacts were probably remnants of the Thran. Their discovery probably inspired the brothers to begin artifice and recognized instinctively that artifacts were safer and more reliable than conventional magic.[1]

Criticism[]

Tashiir expressed that virtually nothing is known of Urza and Mishra's origin, save Tocasia's supposedly reputable claim of them being orphaned brothers. It is even conceivable she could have seen their power, killed their loving parents, and kidnapped them. He also thought it unlikely they did not recognize this so late in their lives given their training. Rather, the pilgrimage more likely would have catalyzed their already-existing inspiration.[1]

The brothers' conflict[]

The brothers, who were already natural rivals, began at that time to become more hostile and competitive for Tocasia's attention. They would have guarded their secrets against one another, possibly with secret alliances hoping to defeat one another. Although the text says otherwise, there is sufficient evidence Tocasia lived several years after the brothers went in separate directions. Citing an account from a Zegon merchant, Caldos proposes it describes the story of Urza and Mishra competing for the love of Ashnod, commonly believed to have entered the picture much later. In their feud, they destroyed Tocasia's school and became bent on each other's destruction. A few years later, Tocasia's death meant there was nothing left to hold the brothers from waging war.[1]

Criticism[]

Plotting the demise of another with secret allies is something apprentices don't have time for. There is no reason to believe courtship had any part in the brothers' conflict, and especially to say that the brothers forgot almost entirely about their romance after destroying the school over it. More likely, they were jealous of one another's power. It seems unlikely they would have been in Zegon while studying at Tocasia's school.[1]

Caldos indicated these events likely occurred after the mages became journeymen. She explains the dismissal of the courtship by theorizing each brother was only trying to keep the other from courting Ashnod and that neither actually loved her.[1]

Preparation for war[]

Urza first allied with the citizens of Kroog, and his influence spread throughout Yotia, from where Tawnos is believed to have hailed. Mishra focused on the western half of the continent, especially Zegon. Ashnod eventually joined his forces, though her personality had developed significantly since their courtship.[1]

Criticism[]

Tashiir believed it unlikely Ashnod's personality would have changed so drastically. Caldos, however, stated that the evidence indicates otherwise.[1]

The war[]

The brothers' battle quickly became a war. Millions of people were slaughtered by one another and war machines. The brothers, constantly trying to outdo the other, depleted the resources of Terisiare for their machines. The quest for artifice resources led the brothers to compete for control of the island of Argoth. The artificers Drafna and Hurkyl in Lat-Nam also conducted research on the machines during this time, though their discoveries that paved the way for modern artifice were not revealed by the College of Lat-Nam until after their deaths.[1]

Criticism[]

Tashiir criticized Caldos's neglect in leaving out the discoveries of Jarsyl, who traveled to Phyrexia.[1]

Aftermath[]

Accounts of the war on Argoth are contradictory, but it seems to have lasted several months, with Urza and Tawnos winning but destroying the island's resources in the process. Mishra and Ashnod are believed to have been killed, though the evidence is lacking. It is unclear what happened to Urza and Tawnos: Perhaps they were killed, went into hiding, or planeswalked away, the latter of which seems most likely. In fact, Urza may have already discovered how and had planned in advance to escape the plane with Tawnos.[1]

Criticism[]

Tashiir said that to call a victory in this war was erroneous, as clearly both brothers and their servants would have died in the struggle, with the devastation of Argoth like none known in modern times. The notion that any of the contenders escaped such a catastrophe simply by planeswalking was unthinkable, and if Urza indeed had already learned how to planeswalk, he had no reason to visit Argoth.[1]

Caldos noted that all existing accounts of the war had Urza and Tawnos surviving the war. As for Urza planeswalking away from Mishra before Argoth, it was probable Urza felt the need to destroy Mishra in order to make sure he didn't follow him.[1]

In further criticism, Tashiir remarked that there are no subsequent legends of Urza or Tawnos, so it is unlikely they actually survived.[1]

Text[]

The Brothers’ War

By Ildria Caldos, Professor of History, Epityr College of Mages.

Commentary by Farsa Tashiir, Professor Emeritus of Historical Wizardry, Argivian University.

Translated from the Argivian by Kathy Ice.

At what stage does “history” become mythology? How much of the history we teach is an accurate account of events and how much is traditional lore wrapped in the guise of fact? As historians, we must constantly struggle to separate truth from legend, and the struggle is never an easy one.

This is nowhere more evident than in the War of the Artificers. Every schoolchild can recite the basic story: two brothers, each with phenomenal magical skills, each trained by the great Tocasia, each specializing in the creation of magical devices. Their rivalry grew to immense proportions until an entire continent was plunged into war, and another continent was completely destroyed. This is the legend, but what of the history?

Over the years, painstaking research has enabled us to construct a basic map of what the continents looked like at the time of the brothers’ conflict, although there is some dispute over the actual location. Tradition holds that present-day Argive is built over the ruins of ancient Argive, which was in turn built over the ruins of the legendary Thran Empire. The Kher Ridges of legend are said to be the same Ridges that overlook Argive today. Ronom Lake is popularly believed to have been in the region of present-day Jharth, which would put the city of Terisia somewhere in the Kovrian Wastelands.

Although popular, this theory is unlikely. It is true that the devices the brothers created enabled them to cover vast distances. Even on horseback, however, the journey from modern Argive to the Wastelands takes at least a month’s time. It is unrealistic to think that, even with their devices, Urza and Mishra would have routinely covered such distances in the course of fighting their war. It is impractical for large armies to cover such distances.

My esteemed colleague overreaches herself in pronouncing the traditional map of the struggle “absurd.” It is certainly impractical for large armies to cover these distances in the modern era, but Urza, Mishra, Tawnos, and Ashnod possessed remarkable magical skill and access to vast amounts of power. Flying machines, war machines, automated soldiers—all of these things enabled armies to be moved quickly and efficiently. Examining the scrolls from the third excavation of Kher Ridge shows a large body of tales that share a common theme of travel across vast distances via strange mechanical means, undoubtedly representative of people traveling using the refuse of war.
An army moves as fast as its slowest unit. So long as there were foot soldiers (and there were), large armies could not easily have crossed such distances. - IC

Similarly, tradition tells us that the “lost continent” of Argoth has long since sunk beneath the waves off the Argivian coast. Argoth’s size has been clearly recorded as about a third the size of the continent of Terisiare. According to the traditional interpretation of Terisiare’s size, this would make Argoth vast indeed—approximately 900 berim long and 700 berim across at its widest point. Again, this is unlikely. First, it is highly unusual to see an area this large “completely covered” in forest, as Argoth is believed to have been. Second, all of Argoth was supposed to have been destroyed in the final cataclysmic battle between the brothers. This would be all but impossible on a continent of 630,000 square berim.

Once again, Professor Caldos has failed to take into account the vast power at the brothers’ command. Granted, it is unlikely that all of Argoth was forested; this is doubtless an exaggeration on the part of our forefathers. Nevertheless, Urza and Mishra certainly commanded enough magical power to destroy broad tracts of land. Why else would these legends, far older than most other stories, have persisted for so long? It is difficult for our modern minds to comprehend, I realize, but I would urge the good professor to try.
I would reiterate that even given the brothers’ power, such a large scale is highly unlikely. - IC

Judging from the records available, it is far more likely that ancient Argoth is in fact Little Videnth Island and that the greater art of Terisiare now exists on Greater Videnth. This brings the entire conflict to much more realistic, albeit still vast, scale. In addition, the more consistent with that described in accounts of the war.

Ah, the Videnthian Theory! For years, now, scholars have wracked their brains in a vain effort to prove this ridiculous hypothesis. No matter what they say about “realistic scales” and “weather patterns,” the fact remains that Greater Videnth bears no resemblance to Terisiare. Where are the Kher Ridges? The Sardian Mountains? Ronom Lake? How is it that they vanished without a trace? As for Little Videnth, it is a desolate, rocky atoll bearing no resemblance to ancient Argoth. Its rocky surface could never have supported the Argothian forests.
Apparently my learned colleague has never heard of erosion. - IC

Thus, present-day Argive and the Kher ridges that overlook it were named for those long-ago places, perhaps by refugees of the battle seeking a more peaceful existence.

This is preposterous. Modern Argive is over 1200 berim south of Greater Videnth. Since Professor Caldos is so adamantly against our forefathers traveling such distances, this pilgrimage would seem to be an impossibility. And why would war refugees name a new country after the site of such sorrow and destruction? Never mind how so many people could move so far and leave no record of their trip in either anecdotal or archaeological evidence.
Any fool can see that a one-time journey is much different from one that must be done on a regular basis. - IC

More is known about the actual conflict between the brothers, although the details, especially about their early years, are still sketchy. They were probably born in Argive itself and almost certainly orphaned at an early age. It is unclear just when they began manifesting signs of being able to wield magic. It must have been at a remarkably early age, though, since their apprenticeship to Tocasia began before either of them had reached the age of ten.

As my esteemed colleague has so vociferously maintained, we cannot always take the legends at face value. Although Urza and Mishra are popularly believed to have been orphans, there is, in point of face, no evidence to support this story. The only thing we know for sure is that Tocasia brought them to her school, claiming that they were brothers and orphans. This may or may not have been true. On the one hand, Tocasia had a reputation for honesty and integrity. On the other hand, she would have sensed the boys’ immense potential the moment she encountered them. It is possible that she took them from a loving family or even that she killed the parents herself in order to bring the boys with her.

Almost nothing is known about those early years with Tocasia. It is reasonable to assume, however, that a magic apprenticeship in those days was not altogether different from what it is today. The brothers would have spent much of their time in mundane chores to build self-discipline and a sense of purpose. Their studies would have encompassed the basic concepts of mana, spellcasting, and spell control. They would have begun mock duels at about the age of fourteen, quite young by modern standards, but by all accounts perfectly acceptable in that particular time and place.

The story of the pilgrimage to the cave of Koilos is well known, and in this case, we can safely assume that history and legend coincide. Tocasia took er two star pupils, then about sixteen, on a pilgrimage to the cave, While exploring its chambers, Urza discovered the Mightstone, and Mishra, the Weakstone. These artifacts, and many others discovered at the time, were most likely relics of the ancient Thran Empire. Quite probably it was these discoveries that inspired the brothers to pursue the study of artifact creation. Each could sense the immense power of his find, and each knew instinctively that this type of magical device would not have the unpredictable side-effects of the more conventional spells.

Professor Caldos is making quite a leap of faith assuming that the brothers did no realize the potential of artifacts until after the Koilos pilgrimage. Urza and Mishra were mages of incredible power and perception; it is inconceivable, given the nature of their training, that they would not have realized something so fundamental until so relatively late in their lives. The Koilos pilgrimage may well have served as a catalyst for each of them, but to suggest it was their inspiration is to ignore the evidence.
My learned colleague evidently has access to evidence that I have not. Certainly nothing that I saw would lead me to believe that either of them cut his teeth on artifacts. - IC

It was at this time that the brothers began gradually to grow apart. They had always been rivals, but now their rivalry began to take a more hostile tone. They became increasingly jealous of Tocasia’s attention. Where once they had collaborated on projects of magical research, now each of them warily guarded his secrets. It is possible that even this early on, each was beginning to form secret alliances in the hope of defeating the other.

My dear professor, have you any idea what the life of an apprentice mage is like? They wouldn’t have had time to creep about forming “secret alliances.” Although it is extremely likely that their mutual antipathy was quite advanced by this stage, there is no reason to suppose that they had resorted to plots.
Apprentices don’t stay apprentices forever. At some point, they become journeymen. - IC

Tocasia’s death seemed to trigger the final split between the brothers and it has long been believes that, removed from her guiding hand, the brothers allowed their rivalry to grow out of control. This is not entirely supported by the evidence, however. There is ample documentation to support the idea that the final rift actually occurred several years before Tocasia’s death. But if so, what was the reason?

For an answer, I believe we should turn to the mysterious figure of Ashnod. Though known as a brutal and tyrannical warlord in her later years, we have hints that the younger Ashnod was quite different. Contemporary sources from her home city of Zegon describe her as “cheerful and open-handed . . . a dutiful daughter.” In a brilliant understatement, the same account goes on to describe her as “a bright and promising pupil.” In none of these accounts is there a hint of the ruthless, hardened warrior she was to become.

Professor Caldos places far too much faith in these “contemporary accounts,” none of which can be considered reliable. All were written by itinerant scribes or troubadours seeking patronage. In such situations daughters of wealthy men are always paragons of beauty and virtue, but this has little bearing on reality.
But even itinerant scribes choose their lies with care. A vicious, over-bearing child might be described as “spirited,” but never as “cheerful and open-handed.” - IC

Nothing is known of how Ashnod and Mishra met. It is always supposed that this happened sometime after Tocasia’s death, as the brothers were gathering support for their battles. There are intriguing clues, however, indicating that perhaps Ashnod met both brothers before Tocasia’s death and that, rather than entering the picture after the rift, Ashnod was in fact the cause of it.

This “theory” is patently ridiculous. Urza and Mishra were childhood rivals; this rivalry grew with their burgeoning magical ability until it became an outright war. It is a simple explanation and a common occurrence among brothers and mages. Any attempt to turn this into some sort of thwarted love triangle is both specious and infantile. Jealousy between mages because of the power wielded by each is a vastly more plausible explanation. Occam’s Razor, and all that.
If it is specious and infantile to examine the evidence and draw a logical conclusion, then I must plead guilty. - IC

A merchant living in Zegon describes a courtship in which two brothers, both journeymen mages, pursue the same young woman, the daughter of a town elder. Although the merchant does not mention names in his account, the circumstance is simply too striking to be a coincidence.

Coincidence is always striking, but that doesn’t mean we should instantly leap to the first absurd hypothesis that comes to mind. Mishra and Urza were studying at Tocasia’s school in the Kher Mountains. How did they come to be in Zegon?
I reiterate, they were journeymen by this time. - IC

From across the actions of the people involved, it becomes an easy matter to reconstruct the brothers’ final split. Both pursued Ashnod for a period of several months. This competition threw their ongoing sibling rivalry into sharp relief; they had a final cataclysmic quarrel and parted ways forever. Ashnod, the cause of the dispute, was all but forgotten as the brothers began working to build alliances and find the resources necessary to manufacture their machines. Shortly thereafter, Tocasia died, ridding the brothers of their final restraining influence. The battle was joined in earnest.

Here my esteemed colleague disproves her theory far better than I could have. Ashnod, the cause of the final rift “all but forgotten?” It is beyond absurd.
Even during their courtship, the brothers were more intent on their rivalry than on Ashnod. I believe that neither of them truly loved her—each wanted her because he thought his brother did. - IC

In the quest for allies and materials, Urza concentrated his efforts on the eastern half of the continent. The citizens of Kroog were among his first allies, and his influence quickly spread throughout the region of Yotia. It is to be supposed that his brilliant apprentice, Tawnos, originally came from this region.

Mishra, meanwhile, concentrated on the western half of the continent, particularly the area in and around Zegon. Eventually, Ashnod joined him, but what a different Ashnod she was! Perhaps she would have preferred to be with Urza, perhaps she resented the brothers’ neglect, or perhaps some other personal tragedy had touched her life. For whatever reason, she had become harsh, cruel, and vindictive—the terrifying overlord of what was to become a vast army.

Or perhaps, my dear Professor Caldos, she had always been “harsh, cruel, and vindictive.” Your ridiculous assertion that Ashnod was “cheerful and open-handed” is what makes this sudden transformation necessary. Hence, we are left with dreadful speculation about “other personal tragedies.” How much more natural if Ashnod’s character remained unchanged from childhood!
It may be easier, but it is not supported by the evidence. - IC

The course of the war is well-documented in other chronicles, so surely a brief summary will suffice for the purposes of this work. Urza and Mishra’s battle quickly grew to an all-consuming war. Millions of people were killed, slaughtered by one another and by the terrible machines of war. Terisiare was soon stripped of every available resource as the brothers raced to outdo one another in the manufacture of these devices.

Terisiare was stripped, but not entirely by the brothers or their servants. In the city of Terisia, a group of the last remaining mages struggled to find some means to stop the conflict. It is from their research that the first of the “elemental” or “color” spells were discovered. Their studies, however, also consumed vast resources—and in the end, they were in vain. To what effect these spells changed the course of the war is still unclear, but about this question hinges the true key to understanding these events.

Meanwhile, on the western isle of Lat-Nam, an eccentric mage and his wife were also studying the machines and their effects. Although their separatist views kept many of their discoveries secret until after their death, Drafna and Hurkyl were adept artificers. It is from the college of Lat-Nam, now sadly lost to us, that we received our present knowledge of the machines and their functions.

Drafna and Hurkyl are not our only source of knowledge. Let us not forget Jarsyl, whose legendary travels in Phyrexia provided key insights into the eventual fate of destroyed artifacts.

There came a time when the war had used up virtually everything the continent of Terisiare had to offer. Vast strip mines covered the surface, the forests were obliterated, and smoke hung like a pall over most of the populated areas. And still the brothers searched for more power, a search which took them finally to the island of Argoth. Although somewhat remote from the main conflict, Argoth’s vast forests and untapped mineral wealth inevitably drew the attention of both brothers. They rushed to exploit it, each certain that possession of the island would assure him of a final victory.

The final catastrophic battle of the war, then, was fought at Argoth. We have almost no details about this battle, and the few details we do have are often contradictory. It appears to have lasted for several months, although the actual length of time is difficult to determine. When he battle was over, Urza and Tawnos emerged victorious, and Argoth was a smoking ruin.

It is an exaggeration to say that Urza and Tawnos won the struggle. Ultimately, the war had no winners. The brothers died, as did their principal servants. The people of Terisiare and Argoth were left desolate, impoverished, and with no means to support themselves. In the succeeding years, they continued to die by the thousand.
Almost all accounts have Urza and Tawnos surviving. I cannot understand Professor Tashiir’s obsession with killing everyone involved. - IC
Urza and Tawnos were, by this time, sorcerers of exceptional skill. How is it that they survived yet never again appeared in any other chronicle or historical record from that time on? While the story is better if one side wins, history is not concerned with the quality of its story.

Mishra and Ashnod were almost certainly killed in the conflagration, but no concrete evidence exists of this. The eventual fate of Urza and Tawnos is even less clear. They disappear, either during or shortly after the battle, but what became of them? Were they killed as well? Did they go into hiding? Did they transport themselves to the Outer Planes, as powerful mages are wont to do?

This last explanation seems to be the most likely. Both brothers had become increasingly powerful; it was only a matter of time before one or both of them discovered the ultimate mystery and began to Walk. It is quite probably that Urza had already discovered this secret and was waiting only to defeat his brother before escaping with Tawnos to the wizards’ realm.

This somewhat romanticized ending to the struggle is certainly popular in legend. It is unlikely, however. The devastation at Argoth is simply impossible to comprehend—we have no present-day equivalent, or anything that even comes close. It is inconceivable that two people in the center of fighting, Urza and Tawnos, could possibly have escaped unharmed. And if Urza had already discovered the mysteries of the Walk, then nothing so mundane as defeating his brother could ever have kept him in this world.
What if Mishra were able to follow him to the Outer Planes? Of course Urza would want to see him defeated so that would never happen. - IC

This, then, was the brothers’ struggle. It began in early childhood, was crystallized by their rivalry for a woman, and ended in chaos and destruction. The aftermath of the war was to last for many hundreds of years, eventually plunging much of civilized world into an Age of Darkness.

But if a historian may borrow another mythological phrase, that is another tale.

I reiterate my wholehearted objection to Professor Caldos’s “theory” of the brothers’ courtship of Ashnod. It is absurd and unsubstantiated.
Is not. - IC
Is too.
Is not.
Is too.

Professors Caldos and Tashiir will be debating this and other historical issues at the Epityr College of Mages on the fifth day past Arcnes, in the hour of the third rising. All are welcome to attend.

References[]

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Kathy Ice (1994), "The Brothers' War". The Duelist, Issue #1 Supplement, May 1994.
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