Our planeswalker series continues this week with Sarkhan Vol.
Sarkhan Vol is a powerful shaman that reveres dragons as the ultimate expression of power and life. He specializes in magic that manipulates emotion and that which likens himself to a dragon. He was born onto a plane where greedy, unscrupulous warlords ravage the land in a never-ending quest for power and control. Sarkhan was a soldier for one such warlord and lived his life in this way for a time. He found it tiresome and pointless, and hoped to become something more than a pawn in someone else’s game. Joining a tribe of shamans who worshipped dragons, Sarkhan learned magic from them and grew to respect their world view, but found it ultimately futile because dragons had been driven to the brink of extinction on that plane.
He returned to his life as a soldier, but put his new found magic to work. He quickly worked his way through the ranks and was given a position of considerable power. He was tasked with slaying an enemy warlord and succeeded, but found the victory just as hollow and fleeting as his life as a peon. He put himself into a trance, an attempt to speak to the spirit of a dragon as he had been taught by the shamans, and succeeded. A spirit of a dragon appeared before him, and taught him a spell of dragonfire. He awoke and cast the spell, reducing the battlefield, both his own men and that of the enemy, to ash. Sarkhan finally felt passion the likes of which he had never felt before and ascended. He never looked back.
He spent some time, wandering the multiverse, looking for a plane on which he could find the ultimate pinnacle of dragonhood. After years of search, he found the plane of Jund, a shard of Alara, where dragons were king. He spent two years on the shard, tracking the movements of the dragons. Learning their hierarchy, their patterns and names and rituals, everything he could. During his stay he found himself crossed paths with Ajani Goldmane. He recognized Ajani as a Planeswalker like himself, and using his dragonic magic, convinced the hellkite Karrthus to spare Ajani’s life. They spoke for a time, and Sarkhan explained to Ajani, who had just ascended himself, the nature of Planeswalkers. Ajani spilled his heart out explaining how his brother had been murdered and he didn’t know where he was out what he should do. Sarkhan told him of the virtues of revenge, and left him to his vices.
Shortly after, he was reunited with the summoner Rakka Mar. They had been previously acquainted through a failed raid with the warrior Kresh, the Bloodbraided against a hellkite. Sarkhan had been trying to find her to enact his revenge for her treachery and disloyalty. Instead, she offered him a unique opportunity, to meet her master; a great and terrible dragon mage. She lead him to Nicol Bolas, and recognizing him as a dragon unlike any other, Sarkhan vowed loyalty to Nicol Bolas. He began performing tasks for the dragon across the newly reunited plane of Alara, mostly involving goading the various shards into war with one another.
Sarkhan was exhilarated to be in service to a dragon more powerful than any he had ever known, but over time came to hold conflicting beliefs over this new life. Bolas was powerful to be sure, but was treacherous, and conniving; not unsubtle and and rageful, like he had expected. He used subversion, treachery and blackmail to achieve his goals, not raw power. Still, he carried on. Bolas had Sarkhan plot the actions of Liliana Vess, and was then sent to Zendikar to act as a gatekeeper to the Eye of Ugin.
There he stayed for some time. Capturing and butchering any trespassers as offerings to Ugin, himself a dragon. In his solitude, he came to reminisce about his simpler life as a soldier and eventually drove himself insane over his doubts of serving Nicol Bolas. Eventually, while scouting the region surrounding the eye, he finds Chandra Nalaar at odds with her ‘guide’ the ruin sage Anowon. He strikes Anowon down, but decides that Chandra, a powerful pyromancer, might make for a fitting sacrifice. He guides her to the Eye and transforms himself into a dragon to slay her. Chandra is rescued by the untimely arrival of Jace Beleren, and they are able to defeat him.
When Sarkhan comes to sometime later, he finds that the key has been opened and that the plane is overrun with Eldrazi spawn. Fearing the worst, he returns and gives word of what had transpired to Nicol Bolas in his meditation realm. He explains of everything that had gone on there and how Chandra and Jace were able to defeat him by channeling Ugin’s colorless fire, and how the Eldrazi are not yet free because there remains another lock keeping the titans at bay. Bolas reveals to Sarkhan that this is all according to his plan; how Sarkhan was never meant to keep the Eye closed but to ensure its awakening, and dismisses him for a job well done. This ends Sarkhan Vol’s story at the current time.
To learn more about Sarkhan you can read more about him in the Planeswalker webcomics or in the novel Alara Unbroken, or you can see him in action in Shards of Alara and Rise of the Eldrazi.