|art by DigitalSurrealist|
|Name:||Rishima, Queen of the Black Sands|
|Author:||Barinellos, dossier compiled by Barinellos and Sam KeeperofManyNames|
From the Notes of Raleris, the Lorekeeper:
My predecessor, Commodore Guff, includes this passage in his History of the Rabiahs:
"The last of the Rabiahs, known throughout the multiverse as simply The Dark or The Black Rabiah, is both its most fearsome and its least understood manifestation. The plane has been largely inaccessible for several centuries due to the endlessly patrolling forces of the dread queen Rishima, a sphinx of unparalleled beauty and vanity. According to legend, she sits upon a dais of marble, lapis lazuli, and the bones of her countless vanquished foes. Her castle, the City of Brass present in the countless other refractions of the plane, glitters in the darkness of her long shadow. To enter the city is to risk a hideous fate at the hand of this endlessly inventive torturer. Dark Rabiah is thus one of the Multiverse's most dangerous locales, rivaling even the fallen Vithia or Phyrexia in its hostility and dread pall."
There is a little more said about the plane itself, but little on Rishima. At the time in which Guff composed his volumes the plane was, apparently, largely closed to outsiders. We might conjecture this to be the early days of Rishima's reign, when threats to her power were greater. For a number of reasons this ban was later lifted, but the plane was still largely avoided due to its fearsome reputation. It is also worth noting the loquaciousness of the passage, pegging this as one of Guff's earlier works before he adopted his later brusque tone.
Obviously, this is a text that needs updating. What has changed since Guff's time? Well, Dark Rabiah itself has become far more accessible to study. To understand why, and to understand the nature of the plane itself, we should start at the beginning of the story, with Rishima of the Black Sands.
The Creation of Dark Rabiah
Once Dark Rabiah was much like the others, a world of mysticism, magic, and camels. Whatever twist of fate began its slow slide into horror is left to conjecture, because few records exist prior to Rishima's ascendancy. Countless warlords led one bloodsoaked crusade after another, tearing the world apart more and more with each successive generation. Hate stained the soul of Rabiah, and Dark Rabiah is the shell that we are left with. Superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of slaughter. It was a world of fear. It was the age of war.
The appearance of Rishima out of the blue on day changed all of that. She deposed the former queen from her Brass throne and established herself as the new God Queen, demanding worship, sacrifice, and the construction of a series of refining engines deep beneath the plane's desert. This last demand, paired with the others, has created a strange paradox: Rishima's version of the City of Brass is a truly industrial city, perhaps one of the most advanced across the multiverse. However, the culture is one of the least developed. If we compare the difference in population between the more typical Rabiahs with the modern Dark Rabiah we see that, even with major differences between refractions, Rishima's city is far more densely populated than any of the others. This seems to be the result of the vast majority of Rabiah's artisans and artificers relocating--whether freely or forcefully we can never know--to this central city. We can gather from this that even at the outset of her reign Rishima commanded great power and greater foresight. She had already given up on her basic compassion, however, if such a quality ever existed within her: the City of Brass is horrifically hot, even with the clouds of smoke that now cover it, and for an unacclimated human it is torture.
From those early days, information becomes patchy and speculative. As Guff points out, Dark Rabiah was largely cut off from Dominia for a time by safeguards within the plane and traps set on the plane's border. During this time Rishima seems to have been building and consolidating her power within her theocratic fortress city. After a time, she opened up the plane once more to audiences from other worlds. The passageways from Wildfire were less jealously guarded, and although Planeswalkers were still forced to hold an audience with the now quite formidable queen they were typically ultimately allowed to leave unmolested.
I suspect that this change in attitude is due to a number of factors. Most prominently, the several decade long industrialization plan that she embarked upon came to its completion around this time. The depths of the sea of sand around her fortress city had been filled with a series of artificial tunnels connecting massive refineries that converted the fallow mana of the desert into caustically black mana by way of Fatima's brass engines. The city acts as a locus for Rishima's improvements, and is overrun with djinn and efreets who worship her in return for gifts of raw magical power. Those who did not worship her were poisoned by her assassins in a particularly cruel way: they were poisoned with nectar from the Island of Wak-Wak and stripped of their powers, making them an easy target for other sorcerers or djinn. Thus, by the time Rishima had opened her borders, the enemies within her walls had largely destroyed one another or come to her side, the City of Brass had been converted into a torturous fortress, and the sphinx could feel confident that her position was unassailable.
The Boredom of a Goddess
I suspect that the other great reason for the opening of her borders, however, was the simple fact that Rishima was bored. The machinations of her djinn and courtiers could occupy her for only so long. The act of opening the borders of Dark Rabiah might be seen as a challenge to other 'walkers. It was a challenge that none met; not, at least, until the intrusion of a strange creature from Kamigawa known as the Myojin of Night's Reach. For a number of years this creature worked in secret to create a cult of her own on the plane, out in the desert. As I mentioned before, much of the population of the plane had gathered into the City of Brass, and into locations such as Cairo and the ruins of Alexandria, resulting in a total destruction of much of the native nomadic culture. Night's Reach played upon the still burning resentment that remained even after centuries, coopting the dormant traditions and making them her own.
Rishima's discovery of the Night's Reach cult prompted dramatic action. After purging the deserts of the cult (and nearly annihilating the native culture for a second time) she left the plane in search of her foe, abandoning her fortress city.
Since abandoning the safety of her fortress city (although not completely--her remaining connection to the City of Brass provides her with a staggering amount of black mana, even when she is on distant worlds) Rishima has wandered the Multiverse, sometimes covertly but often followed by a large summoned retinue of her Djinn and Brass Men. Although she is still searching for Night's Reach it has been a little over a year since she left the plane and more and more the sphinx seems occupied with other interests. It seems that the Queen of the Black Sands is dealing with her boredom like every feline, everywhere in the multiverse: by causing trouble.
The most up to date accounts of her movements describe Rishima as olive skinned, with a dark brown coat and jet black hair, gathered in a mane of long braids upon her head. Her wings are similarly a mix of black and brown, decorated frequently with a dusting of gold and precious sacramental oils. She is a beautiful creature, with high cheek bones, strong features, and a regal bearing. Her presence has been noted on a number of worlds of late, but her movements have been difficult to track, as, like a number of other Planeswalkers in my files, her deeds are often unsavory and hidden from the overly curious. Her last known location seems to place her near the kingdom of Madara, on Dominaria, but the reliability of that information is dubious. I have not pressed my luck to investigate; I fear that drawing her attention might result in severe damage to the Library, to say nothing of my person.
The Mending seems to have done little to her age and health--sphinxes are naturally long lived--and her connection with dark forces on her dark plane ensures that her power will endure for many more years. Proceed with caution.
--Raleris, Keeper of the Infinite Library