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The Chronicle of Bolas

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In honor of Magic 2019's excellent story by Kate Elliott, I'm doing something a little different from my usual recaps. Ordinarily, I would only summarize the story itself, but the title Chronicle of Bolas lends itself to a larger retrospective. I'm going to look at both Ugin and Bolas's histories here, up through Nicol Bolas's rebirth in Time Spiral. While the dates of all these events are given in Argivian Reckoning (AR), a dating system native to Dominaria, the events themselves might take place across the Multiverse. Please note these dates are rough and more for context than accuracy (20,000 years leaves a lot of wiggle room). Fun fact, I didn't expect my Elders of Dominaria and Elders of the Multiverse articles to become so out-of-date so fast, but they're a fun look at what we knew just earlier this year. If you want to know how the other elder dragons ended up, check them out.

Dawn of the Elder Dragons (Approximately -20,000 AR)

Magic has a lot of bad parents and The Ur-Dragon doesn't break that trend.

The Ur-Dragon by Jaime Jones

When The Ur-Dragon passes by Dominaria in the Blind Eternities, several clutches of dragon eggs manifest and hurtle toward the surface. They unfurl in to the elder dragons, and the first to rise is Arcades Sabboth, followed by Chromium Rhuell and Palladia-Mors. Arcades becomes intrigued by structures in the distance and departs. Chromium notices another clutch of eggs coming into being and heads out to greet their new cousins. Palladia-Mors simply goes hunting. Their distraction makes them overlook their younger siblings, Merrevia Sal and the twins Nicol and Ugin. Merrevia is set upon by human hunters and killed while Ugin attempts to free Bolas from debris caused by their landing. This event forever imprints on the twins, and while Ugin begins looking outward and pondering the multiverse, Bolas begins to become consumed by a desire for dominance. (Chronicle of Bolas: The Twins)

Nicol and Ugin travel their new world, encountering their siblings one after another. Chromium, the Mutable comments that they're half his size, and that true dragons have two names. Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner mostly ignores them, consumed only with the hunt. They work together to hunt on their own, but are forced to leave when Palladia steals their kill. Their cousin, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, is a bully who runs them off. It isn't until they encounter Arcades, the Strategist and his colony of humans that they finally settle down and their paths begin to diverge. Nicol introduces himself as Nicol Bolas, having given himself a second name, while Ugin is content with just one name. Ugin studies with Te Ju Ki, an old human mystic, who teaches him about the multiverse and magic. Bolas learns statecraft and about the world from Arcades. This continues for years, until one day Ugin witnesses the aftermath of a murder, brother turned against brother, with Bolas acting suspicious. Bolas declares he's found a way to get their revenge on the humans that killed their sister, and they leave Arcades' colony (Chronicle of Bolas: The First Lesson).

Ugin follows Nicol's trail back to the mountain where they were born. They encounter Palladia-Mors again, and it becomes clear that Nicol is using some form of mind control. Nicol attempts to use it on Ugin, but Ugin shakes off his influence, not recognizing what his brother had tried to do. Palladia-Mors tells them the hunters have become a problem since they were last there, and they arrive to find a civilization of dragon-killers who attack them. Ugin is wounded, and they're forced to set down on the mountain of their birth (Chronicle of Bolas: Things Unseen).

On top of the birth mountain, the twin dragons are approached by Chromium Rhuell in the guise of a pregnant woman. Chromium tells them of the civilization below, but Nicol's attempts to manipulate his fellow elder results in their brother leaving. With Ugin in tow, Nicol enacts his revenge against the dragon-killers. He turns the leader and his heirs against one another, and then forces the heirs to kill one another before proclaiming himself their new ruler. Ugin is so taken aback by this turn of the events that his spark ignites with the sorrow of realizing what his brother really is, flinging him away. After a brief stint on a mysterious plane known as the Meditation Realm, Ugin awakes on Tarkir, which welcomes him (Chronicle of Bolas: Whispers of Treachery).

The Elder Dragon War (Between -20,000 AR and -15,000 AR)

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager by Svetlin Velinov

Nicol Bolas would go on to rule his society of dragon-killers, believing his brother killed by human sorcery. When several dragons of Vaevictis's brood pillage his lands, he gathers his army and retaliates, killing all but one. They track the lone dragon all the way back to Vaevictis at his mountain home, but Vaevictis and his elder dragon brothers prove more than a match for Bolas and his minions. Through attrition Bolas is able to bring down one after another, losing his army in the process, until only two remain. He uses his mental trickery to set Vaevictis against his final brother before retreating. When he returns home, he begins to sow the seeds of war, tipping off Palladia-Mors to their cousin's weakness, and leading Arcades to believe he would soon come under attack if he didn't strike out first. Across the plane, the first conflicts of the Elder Dragon War began (Chronicle of Bolas: Blood and Fire).

After a long time on Tarkir, Ugin attempts to once more travel between planes, and returns to the plane of his birth. He appears at the birth mountain and is startled to discover a temple to Bolas at the summit. Feeling betrayed anew, he leaves and travels the multiverse for millennia. When he finally returns, he finds Arcades and Bolas locked in battle, two armies spread before them. Ugin uses his magical might to bring the battle to a halt, allowing Arcades to escape. Bolas is overjoyed to see his brother, but Ugin quickly realizes it's only because Bolas wants accolades for his conquests. Half the plane now belongs to his twin. Ugin tries to convince Bolas of the pettiness of his pursuit by describing the vastness of the multiverse, but only angers his narcissistic sibling. Bolas believes Ugin is simply trying to belittle him. Ugin leaves the plane of his birth once more in frustration (Chronicle of Bolas: A Familiar Stranger).

Bolas's rage and avarice over Ugin possessing what he does not causes his own spark to ignite. Like Ugin, he discovers the Meditation Realm before visiting countless planes. He eventually returns to Dominaria at a time when the Elder Dragon War had faded to legend, and discovered Ugin in the Meditation Realm by chance. Bolas attacked his brother, and their duel spanned the multiverse. Bolas emerged victorious, casting Ugin down and creating a tidal wave in the realm that ejects him back out onto the island chain of Madara (Chronicle of Bolas: Perspectives).

Ugin knew that if he tried to escape his brother would never stop hunting him, and so he allowed his death in the Meditation Realm, knowing he would survive in some form. Ugin's spirit lingers in the Meditation Realm, and eventually he reforms from the essence of the realm as it slowly repairs itself. He decides to become a protector of the multiverse, and now that his brother believes him dead he has plenty of time to work (Chronicle of Bolas: The Unwritten Now).

The Demonic Leviathan (Approximately -15,000 AR)

The first duel between planeswalkers on Dominaria took place not long thereafter, between Nicol Bolas and a demonic leviathan. The battle devastated the continent of Madara, reducing the landmass to a fraction of its former size. The first time rift on Dominaria was formed by this duel, and Bolas attuned to it as he feasted on the remains of his fallen foe, the leviathan's bones forming the Talon Gates (Future Sight).

The Hedron Network (Approximately -1,400 AR)

Ugin recruits the vampiric planeswalker Sorin Markov and the lithomancer Nahiri to aid him in sealing the Eldrazi. They spend 40 years on Nahiri's home plane of Zendikar building the Hedron Network, which lures the Eldrazi Titans to the plane and then traps them there. Ugin and Sorin depart, promising to return if the Eldrazi are ever loosed from their prison (The Lithomancer).

Ugin conspires with Azor (Approximately 3180 AR)

On a distant plane, Ugin recruits the aid of an old friend: the sphinx planeswalker Azor. Ugin believes that with Azor's hieromancy, he'll be able to finally put an end to his brother once and for all. Unfortunately, Azor's ego had tipped off Bolas to his existence long ago, and years later Bolas learns of this conspiracy as he destroys that distant plane (Sabotage).

Fate Reforged (Approximately 3280 AR)

Crux of Fate by Michael Komarck

Bolas co-opts Yasova Dragonclaw of Tarkir into betraying Ugin, and marking the way to his lair (Unwritten). As Ugin and Azor near the completion of their plan, Bolas arrives on Tarkir. For a moment, they are evenly matched, until Bolas seizes control of the lesser dragons of Tarkir and turns them against their progenitor. Victorious, Bolas snaps his brother's neck and leaves Ugin for dead. Or, so it had played out once. The appearance of a planeswalker from the future, Sarkhan Vol, changed everything. Sarkhan was too late to stop Bolas, but the hedron shard he carried from Zendikar cocooned and protected the spirit dragon, keeping him from death. The future changed, Sarkhan disappeared once more (Unwritten, The Reforged Chain).

Chronicle of Bolas (Approximately 3298 AR)

Nearly two decades later on Tarkir, one of Yasova's granddaughters receives a vision believed to be from the spirit dragon. Now under the iron claw of Dragonlord Atarka, Yasova secretly keeps the Temur ways alive and regrets her actions, manipulated by Bolas as she was. She's decides to follow the vision to Ugin's grave, but they're stalked by an Atarka broodling (Chronicle of Bolas: The Twins). On their trek, they are intercepted by a wounded Jeskai warrior, hunted by an Ojutai broodling. The broodling demands the death of the warrior, named Tae Jin (Chronicle of Bolas: The First Lesson). The Ojutai broodling is attacked by the Atarka broodling, allowing Yasova's party time to escape. When the victorious Atarka broodling catches up with them once more, having learned Tae Jin is a dragon killer, it intends to slaughter them all. But Tae Jin reveals himself to be a ghostfire warrior, and with his invisible blade he slices open the dragon before the rest of the Hunting Party finishes it off (Chronicle of Bolas: Things Unseen). They hurry to safety as a dragon tempest brews, and Tae Jin finishes telling his tale of how the spirit dragon came to Tarkir (Chronicle of Bolas: Whispers of Treachery). The death of the broodling brings them to Atarka's attention, and a strangely mesmerized Tae Jin relates a tale from Nicol Bolas's point of view that pleases her. Unaware of Tae Jin's true nature, she allows them all to live and allows Tae Jin to remain with Yasova (Chronicle of Bolas: Blood and Fire).

The source of the strange mesmerization becomes clear when, upon arriving at Ugin's grave they find the hunting party that lives there dead and only a mysterious woman remaining. Yasova's granddaughters discover a way inside the Hedron cocoon and receive more visions, but as she trades places with one of them, Nicol Bolas reveals himself from his disguise, catching Naiva with his magic. Bolas believes his brother might not be dead, after all (Chronicle of Bolas: A Familiar Stranger). Naiva attempts to delay and distract the elder dragon, but Bolas uses his powers to awaken Naiva's resentment for her sister (Chronicle of Bolas: Perspectives). Yasova is able to stop her from murdering her sister, and using the visions they've received from Ugin, they bluff Bolas into believing they're enacting a final trap Ugin had planned for Bolas. Bolas is unwilling to take the risk and departs Tarkir for good (Chronicle of Bolas: The Unwritten Now).

The Kami War (Between 3200 AR and 3306 AR)

After twenty years of war, Toshiro Umezawa helps Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker defeat her father, Konda, Lord of Eiganjo, who stole divinity from O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami. Michiko, together with That Which Was Taken (O-Kagachi's stolen divinity), which takes the name Kyodai, defeats the great spirit and take his place as the guardian of the barrier between realms. Toshiro, for his part, is transplanted to Madara by the Myojin of Night's Reach, where he thrives (Guardian: Saviors of Kamigawa).

Legends II (Between 3600 AR and 3706 AR)

We later learn Bolas would rule as god-emperor on Madara until Toshiro's descendant, the Imperial Champion Tetsuo Umezawa, enters the picture. After Tetsuo runs afoul of Ramses Overdark, the Imperial Assassin, he eventually finds himself at odds with the god-emperor. He finds a way to hide from Bolas inside the Meditation Realm, and lures Bolas into a trap, destroying his physical body while his spirit is in the Meditation Realm (Champion's Trial).

Time Spiral (4500 AR)

Nearly a millennium later, during the rift crisis, Bolas's connection to the Talon Gates allows him some influence in the area. He rescues Jhoira of the Ghitu, Venser, Shaper Savant, and Radha, Heir to Keld from being trapped in the time rifts that have begun to plague Dominaria, and then manipulates Venser into releasing him. Teferi, Temporal Archmage tries to stop him but is cut to pieces (he got better). Bolas departs to settle old scores, laying waste to the Umezawa bloodline and hunting the Myojin of Night's Reach across planes (Time Spiral). When he returns, he's challenged by the planeswalker Leshrac, who he defeats and uses to seal the Madaran rift (Future Sight).

In secret, however, he was also preparing for the coming effects of the rift crisis, and prepared the plane of Alara as a hideaway for himself. What happened next? You can catch up in Magic Story: Alara to Amonkhet, or just wait a few months for his final plan to be revealed. Once it is, I'm going to detail all the plans Bolas has enacted over the years and how they lead (circuitously) to the conclusion of this story arc on Ravnica.

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