Let Them Be
Deep below the metal skin of a distant world, a strange creature sat upon his throne in thought. One clawed hand rested upon the strange chair, built for his uniquely shaped body. In truth, he hardly ever used the thing. Sitting and giving orders was not his way. That separated him too much from what he felt was his duty, his reason for existence. He preferred to work, to labor with his own hands. That was the way of things, should have always been the way of things. To work was to live. There was no other path.
In his relatively short existence it had always been so, and he was untroubled by this. Why should he be, when in truth it brought him joy? He was powerful, relied upon. Without him industry would grind to a screeching halt. But he would never do such a thing. To build, to smelt metal, was the most wonderful experience in this or any other world. Even beyond his obligation to his society, it was everything that he was.
But he was troubled, and he decided that he must devote all his thoughts to his quandary. Normally he would have busied himself with the never-ending work his position demanded, taken his mind off his issues and returned to them later. To sit and think on something wasted valuable time, after all. It was better to act, to commit oneself to the deeds at hand, than to lay about in frivolous pondering. But this was simply too large to put off. So he sat and brooded, wishing all the while that he could work instead.
And so it was that Urabrask, Praetor of New Phyrexia, once Mirrodin but no longer, devoted all this effort to a singular question.
"The Mirrans have fled into the Furnace Layer. What shall we do about them?"
Days had been given to this. Days had been given and tossed aside as Urabrask wrestled with himself over what was to be done with the defeated natives of this metallic plane. On the one hand, he should inform his fellow Praetors of their arrival and hold them here to be processed into the Phyrexian regime. It was the proper course of action. He knew this, knew it as surely as he knew it was his duty to keep the forges running. But on the other hand…
On the other hand, Urabrask could not bring himself to move.
It was maddening! The Mirrans were broken; he'd given weapons and resources toward that very goal. But now, at the end of it all, he could not order the final stroke that would destroy them utterly. He could not bring them into the glory of the Great Work, the perfection that it bestowed. And this only led to another question as he tackled with what to do about the Mirrans.
Why? He didn't know if it was towards his hesitation or to the fact that the Mirrans had to be inducted into the glory that was Phyrexia. It shouldn't have come up, his course should be clear. But again and again when he thought of what to do with the Mirrans, it came to him. But if that was all, it would have not have been nearly as horrible as the torturous, rebellious thought wormed its way into his mind when he marshaled his will to order their end.
It's such a pity.
Urabrask growled and slammed his fist onto his throne, cracking it. His other hand gripped the armrest just shy of ripping it off. His own mind betrayed him, betrayed his obligation to the glorious whole that was Phyrexia!
But to do so, to extinguish their last pitiful flames, filled him with a strange and unfamiliar emotion. He couldn't name it, couldn't quantify it. All he knew was that destroying these refugees would bring him even more discomfort than he felt now just thinking about it. He stood at the precipice of a line, one foot raised to cross. Once done, there would be no going back.
Was that what he truly feared, the fact that his decision would be final? No, that couldn't be it. He'd made decisions of that nature before. His position required conviction, that his word be the end of all matters. The Great Work demanded nothing less. So what was it then? Why did the elimination of these dregs torment him so?
He was… concerned. That was the closest he could come to it. But it wasn't concern like ensuring the metal remained pure, or making sure imperfections did not appear. This was different, and in the end it was the only thing he could think of that stayed his hand.
His instincts battled with each other, crashing about in a maelstrom that tossed him from one extreme to the next. He was at war with himself, his core split between two diametrically opposed positions. Only one could win, compromise an impossible dream. A choice had to be made.
I have spent days on this, Urabrask thought. It beggars belief.
Days, though it felt like an eternity. Days since his subordinates had posed this question to him, their own faces trying and failing to hide the same thoughts that had agonized him all this time. His lieutenants waited outside for his reply, maintaining order in the meantime and ensuring production continued uninhibited. But it could not last. He had to give an answer.
Urabrask stood, reaching his full height. He strode to the door, pushing it open easily. A variety of faces looked toward him, each different and yet similar in the perfection they had achieved in becoming one with the Great Work. None spoke, but the question was there just as it had been from the beginning of this whole affair.
"Let them be," he said softly, his powerful voice nothing more than a whisper on the wind.
And then he continued forward, making his way toward the furnaces. Enough effort had been spent on this. It was time to get back to work.