Okay, so this wound up taking a good deal longer than I would have liked and going a bit longer than I originally planned (This first chapter was originally no more than a paragraph or so when I first thought the story up), so I'm uploading this in chapters. They are not long chapters. This is the first one. The second should be done within a week. The third and fourth should follow the same schedule. They will be uploaded at fanfiction.net she same day as here. Link follows:
And now the story.
Five seconds, her summoner told her 5.65 seconds before the first of the Noxian champions rematerialized through the fountain. It would take the extra .65 seconds to relay the information, Luxanna Crownguard knew, and Katarina would be the first back. She would waste no time waiting for the others. Lux would be ignored, she felt, and her summoner agreed. Fiora, though, Fiora whose rapier was sending cracks spiderwebbing through the columns of their final turrets and spectral scythes ripping through the minions around her with her rapier, she would be the first Katarina would try to kill. She would be the one they would have to save. "Five seconds!" Lux called.
"There's still time!" Garen shouted. "We can regroup with Jarvan and make the final push at full strength!" Jarvan had been the first and only one of them to die on this assault, pinning back Darius before he could reach Fiora and facing the full wrath of the Noxians for it. Taking the time to unleash their full wrath on him had been Noxus' great mistake. Now Demacia was at the height of what, for good or ill, might be their last push, seconds away from Noxus' nexus but beaten and bloody, surrounded by super-minions and bracing for the Noxian counter-assault.
Lux considered briefly. Their towers and inhibitors had been destroyed. Jarvan was still rematerializing. The only thing keeping their nexus from being overwhelmed by super-minions was their presence at the Noxian base. If they retreated, there was little chance they'd be in such a strong position again. "It's now or never!" Lux answered. "Hold strong! We can do this!" Garen nodded.
One second, her summoner told her. She gestured to Garen as the penultimate Noxian turret collapsed. Garen feigned. With a cry of "Demacia" he changed position to assault the minions attacking them, as if to prevent them from being overwhelmed. The turret shifted focus to Shyvana. She continued her assault unflinchingly.
Katarina rematerialized on cue. Spotting Garen closest to the Nexus, she flung a dagger at the joints in his armor drawing blood, Shunpoed to him and was immediately tangled in bindings of light.
"Sorry," she said, ignoring the bindings and swinging at Garen. Her swing cut into the wound her earlier dagger had left. Garen staggered. "I can't stay this time. I have people to kill elsewhere."
Garen slammed the pommel of his sword into her chest in response, silencing her. Chagrin filled her face and she swung at Garen again. Lux pulled apart Katarina's Shunpo in her mind. Then Katarina was flashed in by her summoner, and daggers came for them all.
Lux and Shyvana were flashed back by their summoners. Garen collapsed as he turned to tried to reach her, his wounds from the turrets and earlier battle too great when combined with Katarina's assault. Fiora disengaged the nexus turret and waltzed around Katarina's daggers, gutting the area around the Noxian with her rapier and spectral scythes both. From her new position Lux aimed through Katarina at the fountain where she could see the other Noxian champions beginning to rematerialize. With a cry of "Demacia" her Final spark tore through Katarina, and she fell to the floor, burned and broken. Fiora hacked at the turret a final time, sending it tumbling to the ground.
Without a word, they turned to the nexus. Darius and Mundo were already making their way off the fountain, but they would never reach them in time. Fiora and Shyvana had begun ripping their nexus to pieces. One more swing and...Lux's blood went cold. Fiora's rapier slammed against an unmistakable barrier protecting the nexus from assault. "The inhibitor!" She screamed. Fiora planted the ball of her foot to turn and sprint. Lux squeezed her eyes shut and her mind tumbled into calculations. If we run now...odds we all survive...fight with both teams missing one person might not go badly...Darius, Mundo and Swain could take front...should be able to neutralize Draven...would kill Fiora...Shyvana's burnout would help her cut a path... Her eyes opened and she yelled as Fiora completed her turn, "Take the inhibitor then the nexus! It's nearly gone!" Fiora nodded and tried to sprint. She only got two steps before Darius snared her with his axe. She tried to break away, but Darius gripped his axe and jumped after her. Lux shunpoed next to Fiora shielding her with a barrier of light just before the axe landed.
The blow sent Fiora staggering back, nearly killing her, but nearly dead was still alive. "Run!" Luxanna screamed. Fiora lunged away. Luxanna conjured an anomaly of twisted light around Darius and Mundo, slowing them as they tried to run past her; launched a prismatic barrier toward her allies in sync with Draven's axes as they tore through the ground toward them and snared Darius and Mundo with light bindings. She allowed herself a moment to take a breath and was met with Darius' axe the next as Darius and Mudo turned to finish her first instead. She turned to run. A cleaver slammed into her back and her vision blurred for a moment. Stay strong. She thought to Fiora and Shyvana and turned to face her attackers. Darius pulled his axe back to ready a swing then was sent tumbling back through the air as a roaring dragon slammed into its bearer and his companion with her talons. "No!" She screamed. "The inhibitor!"
"Fiora has it!" Shyvana growled, and as if on cue she heard the inhibitor collapse as its destruction was announced. "I need to keep you alive."
Mundo began laughing maniacally. "Mundo kills who he pleases!"
"You're going nowhere madman." Shyvana said and cleaved at him with her jaws, sending frost spiderwebbing down his legs, slowing him.
"Focus the nexus!" Lux screamed and ran to meet Fiora, who had cut around Darius and Mundo on her way there. Half way, talons reached up through the ground and pinned their legs.
"Where you hurrying to beautiful?" Draven taunted as he hurled an axe at Fiora.
"Your end." She answered, parrying it.
"You're breaking my heart here!"
"A pity it's not broken yet."
Fiora began attacking minions, stealing their life to survive Draven's assault when a curse afflicted her as ravens began pecking at her. Behind her, Luxanna heard Shyvana scream in pain. She stared ahead. Just one hit. She thought desperately. Please just let Fiora survive long enough for one hit. Her answer came in an inhuman screech as a ravenous flock of ravens filled the air centered on an enormous raven flapping its wings where a crippled man once stood. Luxanna smiled as the last piece clicked in her mind. It was over. In a flash Luxana was gone, replaced by an enormous bird of pure luminescence. Smaller birds flew from her, tiny photosphoenices, searing her enemies and shielding her allies. The talons on the floor lost their grip. Injured, but alive, Fiora lunged toward the minion nearest the nexus and thrust. The Noxian nexus exploded with eldritch energy. Demacia won.
I'll organize all questions I answer about the story here, in paraphrased form:
Q: What's with Lux turning into a bird of light? That's not one of her abilities.
A: No, it is not. Her lore says she has the ability to reverse-engineer a spell upon seeing it cast once. She does this to Katarina's shunpo earlier in the chapter when she teleports to Fiora. This was her reverse engineering of Swain's Ravenous Flock and the thing that clicked in her mind just before it happens.
I try to proofread them as well as I can, but I'm far from perfect at it, and for that, I apologize. I find I only ever catch all errors in something I write when I came back to re-read long enough from having written it that I forget exactly how the words flow.
Not that I'm asking anyone to be my editor, but if you find an error, feel free to point it out to be. I'll correct it as soon as I can.
Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhh! This took about a year longer than I wanted it to. Life changed. Time drastically shortened, but I never stopped trying to find the time to work on it when I had a good silent stretch to write. On the bright side, the work hasn't been done in chronological order, so Chapter 3 is virtually done already and Chapter 4 was finished a couple weeks ago. So, I figure by Christmas I'll be done? Without further ado:
Luxanna Crownguard harbored a strong dislike for few things. Among those, she disliked this the most. The judgement was over, and her summoning was now ending. Everywhere else in Runeterra her mind could be depended on. Her baton and armor might crack, her limbs might falter but her mind endured. Not here. She was not alone in her mind in the Fields of Justice. Being a champion required not only great skill, but willingness to allow a summoner full access to your mind. Some said it was the ability to allow a summoner full access to your mind. Whichever the case, it was what let summoners command champions directly on the battlefield and keep things controlled on and off it as well. Regardless of how large Cho’gath seemed to grow in a given judgement, for example, he always appeared after the judgement the same size. Luxanna’s restrictions were somewhat more involved.
Officially, judgements were matters of great importance. When diplomacy failed, when war would have been the next option, judgments were called for. This made it no surprise that champions in a judgment brought to bear their greatest skills and most secret techniques. Luxanna's mind, then, presented a unique challenge. Seemingly since birth she had been able to master any system she cared to upon exposure to it. She'd mastered language and a number of dialects before most children could walk. As a child she'd become famous among Demacian arcanists not only for the number of arcane formulas and incantations she'd memorized, but also for the number she'd improved or corrected. By the time she had blossomed as a young woman she could reproduce if not reverse-engineer nearly any spell upon seeing it cast once. Other signatory countries to the League were not as pleased with her abilities as Demacia.
Many of their greatest champions had developed their techniques over years of study and discipline, their workings carefully guarded secrets. In some cases entire regions relied on these skills to keep the peace or at least the balance of power. When Luxanna Crownguard was admitted into the League of Legends, what a League match meant for these regions changed completely. The prospect of having their greatest champions' most guarded techniques stolen in a moment in a League judgement caused a diplomatic outcry among League members. The solution the League adopted was a simple one. Luxanna's memory of any techniques learned in the judgement would be removed from her mind as her summoning ended, irretrievable even by her summoner. Since it involved only knowledge gained in the judgement, the spell was both simple and safe but required a willing subject. Luxanna was not happy with the solution, but it kept the peace, so she agreed.
The unspoken guideline many champions followed after hearing of the issue, “Don’t cast spells where Luxanna Crownguard can see them,” however, had no such simple solution.
Now the summoning that kept her bound to Summoner’s Rift had ended, and as she began teleporting away, her mind felt like it was being peeled apart and re-assembled. New threads of knowledge were stripped away and old ones were put carefully back into place. It was the only time she forgot anything, and she hated it. Even as the precise workings of every spell she witnessed in the judgement were stripped from her mind, the thrill surrounding one of them, the last she had learned from Swain, did not fade.
I had it! She thought, jubilantly. I finally understood it! It...it...nonononono come on, hang onto it! Hang on! ...it...it was...Augh! I'm not sure, but I had it! She struggled as her summoner’s magic pulled her streaking through an eldritch corridor of light to the Hall of Judgement. It wasn't a spell...no, it was, just...just not completely? But I knew that already, didn't I? Okay, focus. What was left behind? It...I felt- She thought. What had she felt?
While the memory of the spell's workings were already gone from her mind, the memory of how it felt to learn it, to use it, was perfectly clear. She began searching these memories for clues her summoner thought safe to leave behind. She had managed to secretly reconstruct some spells first learned in judgements that way before. Had she been at all surprised? If not, its workings were probably similar to her guesses of them. Was there a familiar satisfaction? Part of its working were like a logical puzzle, then, with a small leap at some point. Did she find herself reminded of another spell when thinking of the first? There was some link in the workings between them, then. Now, though, her impressions gave her nothing useful. Complete surprise. The sense of the something that should be foreign somehow feeling completely familiar. Joy. The unforgettable sensation of becoming a being of pure luminescence, of flying on wings lighter than air.
I don't feel like that every time I learn a spell. She thought. I haven't felt like that since...since the first time I made myself invisible. When I finally I understood what was happening when I kept turning invisible and bent light myself. That means something, doesn't it? It has to!
She rematerialized in the Hall of Judgement while scanning her memories and smiled reflexively as the crowds roared and filled the hall with thunderous cheers and applause. The cheers grew louder as the rest of the Demacian champions appeared and acknowledged them. Jarvan held up his lance. Garen waved. Fiora kissed the fingers of her right hand and held it up to the crowds. Shyvana simply looked away and to the floor, a slight glower on her face. It always amused Luxanna that Shyvana's reaction sent some in the crowd roaring loudest. Luxanna gave a brilliant smile and waved demurely as expected, her focus elsewhere.
The crowds fell silent as High Councilor Vessaria Kolminye stood. “The judgement is decided in Demacia’s favor!” She declared, her voice ringing clearly throughout the stone chamber, demanding Luxanna’s attention. She hid her annoyance. “The charge of trade manipulation stands and the ‘Transition Tariff’ of .5% for all goods passing through Noxus bound for Demacia is hereby revoked and its renewal prohibited!”
The crowds came alive again at the judgement and Vessaria Kolminye stepped down from her podium to exit the chamber.
“Fine work.” Jarvan said. “You’re each to be praised for the honor you earned Demacia this day.”
“House Crownguard stands proud to do its duty, your majesty.” Garen said. “We need no-” He paused as he caught sight of Luxanna casting a familiar spell. “Luxanna, what are you-”
“Sorry!” She said and gave him an impish smile. “There’s something I have to do!” And with a flash of light, she disappeared.
“Luxanna!” He called after her. He knew she was nearby; the spell had only made her invisible; but she was already racing as quickly and quietly as she could toward the Noxian delegation's exit. Her caution was unnecessary. She knew this close, the cheering of the crowds drowned out any sound she made, but she felt like taking no chances.
She hurried across the hall, through the opposing delegation’s exit and around a corner, beyond which faint echoes of the Noxian champions’ conversation could be heard, planning as she went.
“Where was your sister anyway?" Luxanna heard Draven say and slowed. Being able to make out their words meant they weren't far past the bend just ahead, and she still hadn't finished planning. “That face of hers would have ended it."
"Shopping for hats.” Katarina answered.
“With her friend.” Katarina said. “Friend,” sounded almost contemptuous.
“Pfff, they don’t make hats big enough to fix up her looks.”
“Remember how willing I am to silence any insults to my sister.”
Draven scoffed theatrically. “I’m just talking size, kitty Kat. A hat has to be pretty big to fit over that snake...mane….of hers. Look, all I'm saying is there was a weak link somewhere, and I don't want to brag...oh, who am I kidding? Draven was spectacular. Did you see him?" He asked, swatting Mundo on his shoulder to get his attention. "That triple execution by their bottom turret was nothing short of perfection."
"Mundo was busy being shot by turret and having eyes stabbed out by Lady with pointy sword." Mundo answered. Lux smiled. She had rounded the corner and was slowly closing the distance while working out the final bits to her plans and listening to them talk. They were the sworn enemies of Demacia, but she was still occasionally amused by their conversations.
"That's rough buddy. All I'm saying, though, is Betsy, Elsa and I performed!”
"Is that what they're called now?" Katarina asked. Her voice was now equal parts mirth and derision. Draven didn't seem bothered. "What happened to Kimiko and Himiko?"
"It felt gimmicky." Draven answered.
"So Betsy and Elsa was your next choice?"
"Yeaaah, I'm not really feeling it, to be honest. Anyway Drawena, Dravena and me did work." He said. Katarina smirked. Lux cringed.
"No." Swain said suddenly. He hadn't turned. He still stood in front of the others, faced away from the Hall of Judgement, but that was said to her, Luxanna knew. She gave a mental sigh. Her first plan would not work.
Katarina and Draven turned toward Swain in surprise. Lux stayed in the corridor. Beatrice stared directly at her. Into her. Not for the first time she wondered what the large raven that always followed him was capable of as its beak opened and closed soundlessly.
"Jericho?" Katarina asked. "I don-."
"My answer is no." He interrupted.
"Swain, I love you buddy, but you've got to stop talking to yourself out loud. You're interrupting Draven."
Luxanna allowed herself to fade into view. Darius noticed her immediately but regarded her in silence. Swain turned, his demeanor suddenly changing.
“Ah, the young Orhannixa.” Swain said. “What brings you here?” Luxana laughed. Katarina turned and her eyes narrowed, whether in appraisal or anger Luxanna couldn't say. Draven gave a disgusted sound.
“Augh, keep your fancy “schmoopsy-poo’s” out of here, would you? If you’re going to start calling each other pet names, I don’t want to hear them.”
“Mundo find axe-man’s ignorance offensive. Mundo demands axe-man read book so he understand historical reference to ancient’s culture’s mythological bringer of first light.”
Draven stared at the mad scientist a moment before shrugging. “Hey, Draven reads as Draven pleases, buddy. Besides, there are disappointingly few books with Draven in them.”
"Could someone do it, do you think?" Luxanna asked.
"Write a book with you in it. I mean, can you blame them? Think of what it must be to try to capture all that is Draven in writing!”
“Pfff! As if mere words could capture all that is Draven.”
“You illustrate the dilemma precisely. Why, if all great books had been spent trying to capture all that is Draven, think of everything that would have been lost!" Lux exclaimed earnestly.
"Yeah! You've got a point!"
Mundo stared. Darius somehow looked grimmer. Katarina laughed wickedly. “You’re relying a dangerous amount on The League’s protection." She said, her voice filled with mirth despite the sharpness in her eyes. “I like that, but that’s not safe for you.”
“”Oh, I’m not sure I’m in any danger.” Luxanna said innocently, a sweet smile on her face.
“You’d feel safe if we decided to keep you around?”
"You would have quite the time catching me." Luxanna taunted.
"I doubt that." Katarina answered, eyes still narrowed, face still smiling, hands gripping her daggers. Luxanna started mentally. She hadn't noticed Katarina draw them. "Shall we put it to the test?"
“It’s not the League’s protection that keeps her safe.” Darius said. Luxanna hid her annoyance.
There goes my second plan, she thought.
Katarina turned and gave Darius a questioning look, then looked back to Luxanna. Luxanna smiled brilliantly.
"Why are you here?" Swain interjected.
"But I thought you knew." She answered. "Or have I thought too many steps ahead of you?"
"Your answer is no?”
“Why would you learn it?”
"The same as all I learn, for the good of Demacia."
"For Demacia? Perhaps. But why would you learn it?" Draven scratched his head then raised a finger and opened his mouth to ask a question. Katarina gestured sharply at him with one of her daggers as she sheathed them. Draven moved his eyes back to Lux and Swain, then lowered his hand and closed his mouth.
"If the opportunity to learn is there, why should one not take it?"
"Knowledge for knowledge's sake?"
"A noble pursuit."
"A pursuit more than it seems. Knowledge is power. You know this. Power for power's sake. Few in Valoran would respect that goal."
"I fear you've begun our habit early and in quite the wrong place, but knowledge is a rare sort of power. It breaks the usual rules. Does this mean I shouldn’t expect you?”
“Hm.” Came the terse reply.
“I believe in Swain that means, “Yes, but only grudgingly.” Very good. I will meet you there.” She said, and with a cheerful smile, she turned and walked away. None of the Noxian champions moved to stop her.
“Right. Well. That was...edifying.” Draven said. Katarina turned to him and saw he had drawn himself up and struck his usual pose. She smirked.
“Oh? And what did you learn?”
“Lots of things. There was just so much, but I know, not everyone can have the insight of Draven. There’s only room for one at the top, after all.”
“Pffft.” Katarina replied. She turned and continued toward the exit. “Sounds precarious. Better make sure you don’t fall.”
Draven smiled broadly. “Not gonna happen, babe. Not gonna happen.” He said and continued down the corridor, Katarina and Mundo close behind.
Darius watched them go for a time before turning to his emperor. “They're not wrong, are they?" The general asked. It sounded as much an accusation as it did a question. "Summoning your flock at the end turned the battle in Demacia’s favor." Swain turned his head slightly in Darius’ direction.
“It was a gamble, not a turning point. Whether it succeeded or not is another matter.”
“The 'Transition Tariff.' You planned this judgement, not a tariff. Why gamble at its end?”
"You question me?" Swain asked, turning to face him.
"The moment you grow too weak to endure question is the moment my loyalty is lost to you." Darius answered. Swain smiled a grim, terrible smile beneath his cowl.
"There is more than one way to victory than through The Fields of Justice, Darius."
"Understandable, but what-" Darius began, then stopped. Swain had already turned away and was hobbling slowly down the corridor, Beatrice's beak opening and closing soundlessly by his ear.
Note: I don't mean to suggest Draven only has two axes. He has multiple axes but only two names for them.
Here's the penultimate chapter. The one the entire fic was planned based on. I hope you enjoy and that it doesn't upset anyone too greatly. The final chapter is already done. I'm just going to proof-read it a couple more times before putting it up, which should take less than a week. The chapter will be put up on FF.net and AOO by the end of the day.
Luxanna Crownguard sat alone wearing a smile and an elegant dress in the patio of one of the many fine restaurants serving the League grounds, a cup of Ionian green jasmine tea on the table in front of her. She had been there for some time, interrupted only by the occasional fan, whom she invariably greeted with a dazzling smile that would be mirrored on their face as they walked away from the encounter. She was happy for the interruptions. She wasn’t entirely comfortable being alone with her thoughts at the moment, and her partner for the evening was late. Finally, a hobbled man of indeterminate age appeared. He walked with a limp, supporting himself with a cane. While he was older, he did not seem old enough to have been hobbled by age.
Ignoring the hostess, he slowly made his way to Lux’s table. The hostess called out to him, then stopped herself as a large raven swooped down from the sky to land on his shoulder, sparking recognition. She apologized and bowed. Jericho Swain, emperor of Noxus, continued to pay her no attention as he made his way to his table.
"You Noxians have some very odd notions regarding taxation," Luxanna said, smiling, as her partner for the evening took his seat.
"Demacians have odd notions about the necessity of League judgements." Swain countered.
"Leave not the roots of one weed of evil," she said, quoting from the Code of Demacia, the first and absolute law all laws, in fact all society, was based on in Demacia.
“A judgement for one root?” He said. “Clearly, Demacian notions of restraint remain unchanged as well.” A server approached their table to take his order, Lux’s having been given some time ago. Swain waved him away. “Veal and tea. Black.” He said simply. His eyes did not leave Lux.
“We’ve well seen what your roots grow into, your Highness.”
“Is this to be another series of Demacian accusations?”
“Would you think them unfair? That you can be called emperor now is proof even your roots, left unchecked, will grow enough to bear fruit. Kalamanda, Tempest Flats, The Ironspine Mountains, you spread roots everywhere. And it's not as though you don't enjoy a judgement. You always have favored the use of conflict to hide your ploys."
"What conflict do I stand accused of in Tempest Flats?"
Perfect. She thought, her smile broadening on the inside. Swain was many things, but a great actor was not among them. He knew he had to be careful what to discuss or she could glean some intelligence from his reactions. At the same time dismissing the subject outright would direct suspicion. Noxus certainly knew Demacia knew Noxus was involved in Kalamanda. They might not know Demacia was aware of her actions in The Ironspine Mountains. As far as Demacia knew, Noxus was not directly involved in anything in The Tempest Flats. They were involved indirectly through their activities at Mogron Pass, but they had no active hand there, and The Tempest Flats is where Swain chose to direct. There were four likely reasons Lux could think of for that. It was time to narrow those possibilities down.
"'Stand accused of?' So much success in Kalamanda, and you still you remain too modest to take credit of the high storm in the Flats?”
Swain’s eyes narrowed. “Kalamanda is the League’s. Storms are all there are in The Tempest Flats. You mistake shadows for roots.” Six possibilities now. She hid her frustration.
“And so the surge of Nexus energy was their doing? The following storm a complete coincidence?”
“It's interesting what Demacia sees when it looks so closely at nothing. Here's a gift, the surge was from Mogron Pass. What the League is doing in Kalamanda is beyond our knowledge and concern.” Four again. Maybe. Still, better.
“And here I believed your access to Kalamanda was on more comfortable terms than that. Perhaps I do overestimate your influence.”
He ignored her comment, turning instead to face the server approaching with his tea. He took it immediately and raised his cup to take a sip. Two. Maybe three.
“As for the Ironspine Mountains-”
Swain paused before sipping his tea. “If you have complaints about our relative influence in Kalamanda, lay them at the feet of your prince for beginning the conflict there.” She had him. Now to see what else she could learn.
"Hmm, a curious thing, isn't it? And while he was away on retreat, no less." She answered, citing the unofficial “official response” to questions of Jarvan’s whereabouts the day eyewitness accounts say his assault of Swain ignited the conflict in Kalamanda.
"If his word is to be believed over the eyes of so many."
"That does pose a question, doesn't it? Believe the exemplar of Demacian ethics or the deceiver?"
Swain again remained silent.
She continued to study him as she sipped her tea and smiled. "A shame you didn't order the green needle tea. It really is excellent."
"I have no taste for things Ionian."
“How ironic. I would imagine-”
“Is your brother well?” Swain asked, suddenly.
“Pardon?” She replied, lowering her cup, her face and emotions mirroring each other in their confusion. She was spared a moment as their food arrived and was laid out at the table, but once the servers left, he began again.
“I heard him call out after the judgement. He seemed concerned.”
She gave a smile of good-humoured embarrassment. Inwardly, she groaned. “Oh, that. He is quite well, with the exception of what fussing over me as much as he does might do to his nerves. I’m certain you know why he yelled after me. You were the one who spoiled my fabulous surprise, after all; though, your concern is touching. Truly.”
"He worries for you." He said, ignoring the bait.
Not in any way you imagine, she thought. Again she remembered Garen’s famous quote "Her guiding light makes enemies wary, but they should worry most when the light fades." It was the most widely-known thing anyone had said of her. It was also the most misunderstood. She pushed those thoughts out of her mind. “Since reuniting at the league, he apparently feels the need make up for lost time in fussing over me, but then I’m telling you nothing the journals haven’t written about.” She said, then, adding a touch of exasperation, “Extensively.”
“You seem unconcerned.”
“Had you expected a teary confession? 'I waited half my life to see my brother,´ perhaps 'and now I have, and he can’t see me?'”
“You underestimate him.”
"Jericho. You should not take feints so seriously. "
"Was that a feint?"
“Oh, oh no, Jericho. Don’t say that. That makes this whole thing feel unfair. You must have at least a chance for an advantage here, or then I’m just taking unfair advantage of you. No no, Demacian justice won’t stand for that. If you need to withdraw, I completely understand. Just leave a list of minor secrets behind as forfeiture.”
“‘Demacian justice?’ Hardly.”
“Why Swain, you make it sound almost as though you’ve had concern for justice at some point in your life.”
“I have no concern for lies people cling to for false comfort. Your entire country preaches about its justice. They don’t know what its justice is.”
"It is our greatest strength, and we would share it with the world."
"Your certainty gives the wise and the weak fear."
"Fear? Most would consider being blessed with such certainty a gift."
"And your allies? Would they?"
"They do. With Noxus as-"
"No. No Noxus. No Zaun. What then? How long does your 'Eternal Forward Match' ignore 'The roots of one weed' in Bandle City?" He pressed, quoting portions of The Code of Demacia. "In Piltover?"
"You don't-" She tried to protest, but Swain continued on, heedless.
"How long until Vi risked facing 'justice?' for battery or unlawful destruction? Would she change for Demacia? Would she fight to the last? Would her partner abandon her if she fought? Her friends?"
And there Luxanna, thought bitterly, there it is. The problem she faced, the one that left a sense of emptiness in her when considering the country she loved. The flaws in Demacia. This was a thing she learned early in her life she could never speak of. There she had been, being brought theories of science and magic to absorb and dissect, her teachers excited and full of praise for every flaw she found, for every formula and incantation she corrected. What had they expected when they brought her their theories of justice? What had they expected when they asked her of the Code of Demacia?
She told them only what she saw, that they presented an absolute system as perfect justice when all absolute systems yet devised had proven to have inherent flaws by nature of being absolute. That unchanging standards are unlikely to meet all circumstances and evolving societies perfectly. That historically such systems of justice at their best had promoted greater justice for all in exchange for injustice to the few but often ignored their own injustice. She said it academically as an initial observation of a system that could yet be improved.
She had not expected that they simply expected her repetition of them, her approval of the soundness of these systems. She had not expected them to treat her answers with horror or look at her with such disappointment. She did not expect them to try to teach her to never think such “evil” again but instead teach her she could never speak her true thoughts aloud. There was an absolute system expected of her she learned, and she should never show any outward deviation from it. It was then that she missed her brother, her confidant and her defender, the most. She hadn’t yet learned the brother she’d known was lost to her, never to return.
These were things she couldn’t speak of, however, least of all to him.
"Are you trying to argue Demacia owes Noxus a debt of thanks? Is this some new way of claiming your atrocities permissible, because they shield us from ourselves?" Lux answered wryly. "Because there are simpler ways to do so. All equally futile, but at least they're simpler."
Swain did not answer.
"Piltover is our ally, as ever she will be. Demacia is not so harsh, and so long as one has justice in their hearts, they need never fear her censure."
“So young.” He said, his tone dismissive, but touched with something else. Disappointment? She wasn’t sure. “Brilliant and powerful, but young. So terribly young.”
“Young? That’s hardly a substantive critique. Noraxus himself earned his conquest by 21.”
“And was dead by 23. Murdered by his heir. Demacles brought peace to the warring tribes as a mere boy and died not three years later. Mestartes, Kumamori, Heredrin. History is littered with the corpses of prodigies dead in their prime who taught no great students, knew no great loves and raised no families. They created nothing more lasting than precedent or an idea left to others to carry on, if they could. How many of their empires collapsed after their deaths? How many wars over succession or ideology followed? How often did the people of Valoran face worse?"
"Mendorus the Just is said to have wept upon looking to the stars after conquering the lands of the ancient Illdeyic States, paving the way for his conquest of all Valoran, because he knew he'd never be able to bring all the worlds in the heavens under his rule. He was taken by sickness not six months later, his conquest incomplete. The aftermath of his death was the beginning of the third Rune War. Is this your plan for the future, Luxanna? A bloody swathe through history and an early grave? Is that what you will bring Valoran, what will be your legacy? Will that be your happiness?”
“And what’s your answer?” She asked with a lighthearted calm she did not feel. “Retire my spells and armor and seek enlightenment? How Ionian. Or perhaps you think I should find a loving husband and dedicate myself to the many children we would have.”
“Pshaw. You would irreparably damage my opinion of you if you did.”
“My answer? I have none. I would never insult you by pretending to know you better than you do yourself, but whether you admit it or not you play a fool’s game. Know yourself. Dispense with artifice. We both know you don’t fight in The League for Demacia. What do you fight for?”
Lux’s smile died on the inside. Sadness, confusion and rage boiled within her. Her face showed no change. “Jericho,” she said, a note of chastisement on her voice, “My life is not only my own. It belongs to all the people of Demacia, and by extension, all those who seek justice in Valoran. I may not fit the Demacian ideal to perfection, but it’s an ideal. It’s something to strive for. It’s something worth striving for.”
“A pretty answer.” Swain sneered.
“And a true one." She said with feigned earnestness as she cut into her lamb. "It’s the reason I have pledged myself to Demacia and the reason I give Jarvan my fealty. He stands closer to the ideal than any other I’ve ever known.”
Swain scoffed. “Jarvan’s a fool who cripples those he 'leads.'”
“You’re far too harsh on the ethics he follows.”
“Only a fool feels hatred for ethics.”
“Ah, then this is about Jarvan himself. Then you are far too harsh on him. Whatever else you think of him, he’s no fool. He’s as clever as you or I.” She said, surreptitiously studying her companion’s face as she chewed.
“Spare me platitudes.” He said, his mouth twitching with contempt.
“I tell you only the truth. In fact, it was Jarvan who devised the final gambit that led Demacia to victory today.”
“Pah! You expect me to believe Jarvan was trading feints with me at the end?”
“Oh, I was the one parrying your feints, certainly, but in the end it was Jarvan’s assault that caught you off guard.” A faint rattling caught Lux’s attention. Swain’s hand had begun to tremble slightly, she noticed, rattling his cup against his saucer. "I told him we had no opening for a charge, but he disagreed."
“If you’ll pardon the language, his exact words were, 'He's given us our opening, poking and hiding here and there. His tactics are bogged in too much consideration, thinking when he should act. That vile crow’s as predictable as they come. This is just what he won’t expect.'”
A deep, piercing croak came from the other end of the table. The figure of the hobbled man seated there distorted as it suddenly rose, sending its chair tumbling back and becoming an enormous, disfigured raven.
“Jaaarvan!” The bird screeched. “I’ll gut him like a worm! I’ll rip out his liver and feast on his eyes!” As he screeched waves of magic radiated from him and ravens began to swarm the air, spilling glasses, upending tables and sending patrons cowering or fleeing in terror. It showed no sign of stopping until a small, self-satisfied laugh came from its dining guest as she stood.
“You play a gentleman passably, Jericho, but you can’t hide the monster at your heart. It weakens you. You could have been so much more.”
A chilling screech came from the bird and slowly resolved into a laugh as the figure of a hobbled man emerged again, taking the place of the bird that had been standing there just a moment ago. He righted his chair and sat calmly. “Of course.” Swain said at last, his tone cutting. “How very Noxian of you.”
Luxanna Crownguard stood silent for a moment, then placed a small purse of coins on the table and walked away silently, her smile visibly gone.
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