Minutes to Midnight, Part 1:
The Past and Present of Innistrad
by Chris Wolfe
Do you feel that creeping sensation? Our next return to Innistrad is lurking just around the corner. The plane is steeped in lore that tells of the struggle between humankind and monstrous (or otherworldly) forces. We’ve been witness to the rise and fall of angels and demons, a war of vengeance between ancient Planeswalkers, the arrival of the Eldrazi, and the following salvation of Innistrad at the hands of the Gatewatch. But what has happened since then? We’re about to find out starting with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Before we come face to face with the current state of things, let’s take a brief look at how we got here!
The Birth of Vampirism
Many of the horrors and monsters of Innistrad are natural phenomena. Werewolves and their lycanthropy exist because of a curse that naturally occurs on the plane. The same is true for lingering geists, as well as the birth of devils, demons, and most angels. However, vampirism on Innistrad is the result of one ambitious human’s lust for power and eternal life. Renowned alchemist Edgar Markov was aging and had begun experiments to find eternal life for himself and his only grandson, Sorin. It was during this time that a famine began to sweep the lands currently known as Stensia. Unknown to the humans, a Demon Lord named Shielgengar was responsible for the famine, and that same demon approached Edgar and whispered the power of blood magic into his ear. Shielgengar reasoned that if some of the humans only needed to feed on blood, it would both cull the population and reduce the need to rely on failing crops and ultimately save them. Now having a reason to pursue experimenting with blood, he pushed forward with Shielgengar guiding him on his way.
With Shielgengar’s tutelage and forbidden knowledge in tow, Edgar trapped and exsanguinated one of Innistrad’s Angels. In a horrific ritual, Edgar drank the decoction and became Innistrad’s first vampire. Now that blood could sustain him, he invited the people of Stensia to join him and find sustenance in blood, including his grandson, Sorin Markov. Sorin’s Planeswalker spark ignited as a result of the trauma and horror of the transformation.
After some time and with a new perspective from traveling the planes of the multiverse, Sorin foresaw a conundrum: if the vampires of Innistrad continued to live as gluttons as they had, the human population they depended on for sustenance would dwindle, leading to cannibalism. He also had witnessed the cosmos-traveling Eldrazi and had become aware of the existence of other Planeswalkers. With these things in mind, Sorin used his significant power and sacrificed part of himself to create the archangel Avacyn. Having seen the human tendency for prayer and faith, he created Avacyn to be empowered by faith so that she could hear prayers to her name and empower her believers in kind. Woven into the spell that created Avacyn was also the first part of a ward that would shield Innistrad from the attention of interplanar forces.
The Creation and Fate of Avacyn
While the Church of Avacyn took root across the land, Sorin set about creating the second part of his warding spell for the plane: the monolithic Helvault. With great effort, he tore a shard of silver from Innistrad’s moon and brought it down to the plane’s surface, and then enchanted it. Avacyn needed a special prison for the Demons of Innistrad, and the Helvault was just that. Despite the angels of Innistrad flocking under Avacyn to form a united force, the demons were unending. Much like angels, demons are beings of pure mana. Each time a demon dies, its essence returns to the plane where the mana will coalesce and become yet another fiend. The Helvault, however, could contain them.
With the creation of Avacyn and the Helvault, Sorin’s two-part protection spell for Innistrad was complete. As long as either Avacyn or the Helvault remained, Sorin’s wards would stay in place. From there, Avacyn fashioned collars of silver to bind the demons and brought them to The Helvault, where she and her host of angels performed rituals to banish them forever. So strong was the magical binding that The Helvault even served as a prison to the Planeswalker and Lithomancer, Nahiri. Even Nahiri’s stone-shaping abilities had no effect on the moonsilver prison.
Eventually though, The Helvault became a prison to Avacyn herself. When only a few demons remained on Innistrad, the most powerful of the Demon Lords, Griselbrand, came to challenge Avacyn. After battling for days, the angel and demon struck each other with mighty blows. In a last desperate attempt to contain Griselbrand, Avacyn imprisoned herself with him in The Helvault. Only the Lunarch of the Church of Avacyn, Mikaeus, was witness to this, and he kept this secret with him to the grave. But, little stays dead and buried on Innistrad.
Join us next Friday when we look back at Innistrad as it was after the light of Avacyn disappeared. Get ready to defend against (or join?) the encroaching darkness by getting your preorders in for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Also make sure to secure a seat at one of our prerelease events.
Until next time, don't forget that the night is dark and full of terrors!