Exclusive: Sneak Peek of Magic: The Gathering Planeswalker Vivien Reid’s Story
Also, we interview writer Cassandra Khaw!
Vivien Reid, the newest green planeswalker from Magic: The Gathering, is getting her own story to explore the character further, and give Vivien more of a personality outside of her bad-ass backstory and amazing design.
Wizards of the Coast was generous enough to share an exclusive excerpt of the upcoming Vivien Reid story and an interview with its author, Cassandra Khaw. Khaw is the author of the Gods & Monsters series and Persons Non Grata series of books.
We were excited to speak with Khaw, who is both a great writer and a lover of the universe of Magic. For those with a limited knowledge of the series and its fiction, this is a great place to start.
Interview w/ Cassandra Khaw
TMS: Being a horror writer, what are some of the horrific things and elements within Magic: The Gathering that make it so much fun to work within?
Khaw: I … I’m not even sure where to stop. I mean, there’s Innistrad to begin with. Also, everything Phyrexian. Also, like the now-obsolete explanation for what Planeswalkers are and how they operate is frankly metal. Omnipotent gods slowly growing bored of their own immortality, hungry for sensation, for new experience, endlessly swallowing up worlds, forcing creatures into combat and then discarding across the universe. There’s just so much intrinsic horror there.
Also, have I mentioned Phyrexia?
I really like Phyrexia.
TMS: Did you come into working for Magic as a fan of the card game series? How do you think playing the game lends itself into knowing how to craft a story?
Khaw: I absolutely came into the opportunity as a fan of the card game. I’m lucky that Nic (my beleaguered editor) is so patient. I think he spent half his time initially just trying to get to stop jumping at him with new ideas. Magic: The Gathering continues to be one of my earliest obsessions.
TMS: When coming with a story for a Planeswalker, especially a new one, what are some of the things that you do to make that character your own? How did Vivien go from an image to a full-fledged character?
Khaw: That’s really interesting. Weirdly, I’d say the revision passes that Nic and I did. When we were conceptualizing the story, we kept bouncing the ideas between us; Nic kept giving me hooks and I kept building Vivien’s spirit on that. The current tale’s interesting in that it hasn’t been long since things exploded in her life, so she’s kinda tense and still very, very angry. But I think we see shades of who she will be and her sense of humour is … grim, to say the least.
TMS: What are you looking forward to readers getting out this new short story and learning about Vivien?
Khaw: I am so looking forward to people seeing more of Luneau. I have such a vicious love of its cruel excesses, its games, its shimmering beauty. There’s a lot of black humour to it too. I’m hoping that will please.
TMS: If you were creating a Legion of Doom-style roster made up of Planeswalkers, who would make up your dream team?
Khaw: Urza, Nicol Bolas, Jeska as Phage, and like, I know it isn’t a planeswalker, but I’d really, really like Yawgmoth on this team. I used to obsess about Phyrexia. It haunted my dreams, still haunts my imagination in so many ways. That image of Mishra, entrapped and mutilated. I still think about it.
TMS: What are some of your favorite stories from Magic that readers unfamiliar with the series should check out?
Khaw: Oh. Oh, goddamn. That’s hard. The new stuff has been fantastic, but if there is any recommendation I have to make, it’s probably checking out anything associated with the Hurloon minotaurs. (I really, really liked Tapestries: An Anthology) Also, the Urza and Mishra arc. I think it stretched slightly too long, and it isn’t quite representative of what’s going on now, but there was a certain epicness to the whole saga that I loved to tooth rot.
“You speak with fish as well? Mademoiselle, your skills are without number.”
The eels receded into the water at the sound of the man’s voice, a lean baritone yet unused to manhood. Not that it’d ever have occasion to mature. Vivien raked a considered look across the new arrival’s countenance, taking in the saturnine features, the boyish softness of his mouth, his bloodless complexion. Vampires were eternal, both in habit and biology.
Vivien unfolded to her feet. She was tall and brown and muscled in a way that compelled troubadours to think of knights in disguise, her dark hair held back in a pragmatic ponytail. If Vivien was beautiful, no one had yet thought to remark upon the fact, more concerned, perhaps, by her martial demeanor and the cold sated intensity of her regard.
The sea billowed and lapped at the ship, hurling jewelled foam into the air.
“I talk to fish as much as I talk to dinosaurs.” Vivien adjusted the placement of the Arkbow, its ligature warm even through her doublet. Frederic, the vampire huntsman who’d elected himself her escort, spent a night and handfuls of a morning endeavouring to convince her the weapon needed to be stowed away: swaddled in oilpaper, kept safe from the abrasive salt air.
But Vivien refused. She would sooner be flayed than parted from the relic, crooked and bright as a spine sleeved in silver, the last piece of Skalla outside of her own skin and tendons.
“So what you are saying is that you’re versed in their every dialect, acquainted with their similes, and gifted at interpreting their native anecdotes?” Frederic beamed as though he expected to be rewarded for his grandiosity. He smelled of blood and brine and frankincense, a butcher at church, and even after days in his company, Vivien couldn’t bring herself to untense in his presence. “I’m saying I don’t ‘speak’ to fish.”
One of the eels rose to interrogate her with a look, agate eye bisected by a rectangular pupil, goat-like and animate, only to be chased away by the lowing of the ship’s prized captive: a juvenile Brontodon. The dinosaur was too big for its prison. Both tail and throat tendrilled from port holes on each side of the vessel, endlessly beset by gulls and gulper-fish. As well as Vivien could infer, the creature did not sleep, only moaned and howled through the hours.
“You do, however, speak to dinosaurs?” A lascivious waggling of his brows. Behind him, Frederic’s crew swarmed and seethed and shouted in a sublimely acrobatic creole; Vivien could only pick out one word in eight, the others too slang-tangled in lurid flourishes. But their excitement required no translation. Home was but a horizon away.
She plucked the last of the fruit from her bucket and flung it at the Brontodon, succulent vegetal flesh dripping sugar like beads of buckwheat honey. The reptile snapped its mouth close around the morsel, guzzling a ragged scavenger-bird in the bargain. It gazed dolefully at her and trumpeted in misery again. “No.”
“Then how do you explain what we saw? How do you explain the majesty of you standing there, a hand stretched to the beast. It takes Luneau entire expeditions to return with but one of these beasts. But you, you sought them out alone! Mademoiselle, you are either gifted or magic or both!” Frederic twirled a hand upwards and then paused, an anticipatory smile hunching his lips.
Unfortunately for the vampire, Vivien had ceased paying attention. “There will be medical attention waiting for the Brontodon, I hope?”
“It will, like every new specimen, receive the finest attentions of the Royal Menagerie.” Frederic palmed his breastbone and bowed low.
Vivien took note of how he abstained from a direct answer and how glibly he smiled, filing both observations away behind a grimace she, if questioned, would blame on the wind. The planeswalker tired of the simpering, the subtle innuendos, the stratas of meaning layered one over another, Frederic’s every word weighted with a multiplicity of nuance.
Not for the first time, Vivien found herself regretting her decisions. She should have run them from the jungles. But Frederic, effete yet earnest, had so very many stories of a Royal Menagerie more impressive than myth, so enormous it held entire ecosystems behind its gilded teeth. What a trousseau of rarities, what treasures. Like nothing Vivien would ever see again this lifetime or the next.
The planeswalker bent and scooped the bucket into the crook of an arm, wiping her fingers on her breeches. As skiffs, each the same tint of pearl as distant Luneau, came to circle the ship, the sailors began a lusty laughing chanty, one full of husbands and husbandry and what debaucheries can be achieved between the two. Frederic looked over his shoulder, smile as false as the words to follow.
“I should apologize for my men.”
“No. That is quite alright. ” Vivien said. “It is about what I expect of civilized people.”
( image: Magali Villeneuve/Wizards of Coast)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org