The fox girl slept through the rest of that day, and for most of the night as well. When she finally woke up, she found that she was alone. The girl got up slowly, carefully testing her limbs by stretching them out. She felt a dull ache in her face and hands, and her muscles still felt sore, but it seemed manageable now. The girl perked her fox ears and listened carefully for any trace of activity outside her room.
The inhabitants of the house must be asleep. Curious now about her surroundings, the girl gingerly stepped off the bed, testing her balance. Once she was sure of her footing, she let go of the bedpost she had been holding onto for support, and walked towards the door. She tried to push it open, but found that it would not budge. The girl let out an annoyed huff. Why did these humans like to lock themselves inside wooden containers? What were they scared of?
She grabbed a curved handle attached to the door, and jerked it up and down. She gave the handle a strong tug to no effect. Odd. It did not seem like the woman had spent much effort opening this the other day. The handle could be pulled up or down. She decided to pull it all the way up. She heard a distinct *click*. So that was the trick! She pulled on the handle again, but the door still would not budge. Grrr! She depressed the lever all the way down this time, then pulled on the door again. To her surprise, the door popped open with no resistance, sending her tumbling backwards. She landed on her butt, bracing the fall partially with her hands. This proved to be a horrible decision. Sharp stabs of pain shot up her hands and up her arm, making her jerk her hands up and away. Owww.
The girl shuffled back onto her knees, and crawled towards the door. Grabbing onto the doorway with her fingertips for support, she pulled herself back onto her feet, then stepped out into the hallway. The hall was dim and felt very closed off. Further down to her right were two more doors, which she guessed was where the man and woman slept. No need to disturb them for now - there was more exploring to do. Down the hall to her left was another door, and further on the wall ended, allowing an opening into another room which was where light seemed to spill in from. The girl sneaked past the two doors and down the hallway, and stepped through the opening, revealing a large, well-lit room with two windows, which let in the sunlight from outside giving the room a natural, soft glow. There was a counter on the far end of the room, on top of which laid a chaotic scene of various food items as well as boxes, pouches, plates, and utensils.
Realizing now that she probably hadn't eaten for a couple days, the girl shuffled over to the counter and gazed at the various food items available. There were an assortment of vegetables she was familiar with, but the other items seemed unrecognizable and foreign to her. Being aware that there were many things in the forest that were poisonous or otherwise inedible, the girl was hesitant to try the more odd looking items, and decided to stick to what she was familiar with. She picked up a plump, fleshy red tomato, and was about to bite into it when she heard a noise in the room next to her. The girl quickly turned around. The sound seemed to come from the room adjacent to the one she was in. A wall separated the two rooms, but there was an opening at the end that allowed one to walk between the rooms. The girl pressed herself up against the separating wall to minimize her profile, then slid over to where the wall ended. The sound of a door closing rang out. Maybe the man and woman weren't sleeping after all. Brimming with curiosity, she turned to peek around the corner, and came up face to face with another boy, slightly older than her, who widened his eyes in shock upon seeing the girl before him. What instantly caught the girl's attention, however, was the red tunic he was wearing, which bore a distinct symbol on the chest.
A flaming blue circle.
Recognizing it as the same symbol she had seen on the men in the forest, the girl let out a terrified scream, and chucked the tomato she had been holding at the boy with all the strength she could muster. It struck him squarely in the face and burst open, forcing him to reel back temporarily. The girl used this chance to run back towards her room. Before she could reach the hallway, she ran into the woman. In a full panic, the girl looked up at the woman with terrified eyes, motioned towards the boy, then tried desperately to cower behind her.
The boy, still reeling from the impact, let loose a few curses and stared at the girl with a highly annoyed look on his face.
"Mom? Wha - what the hell just happened? Who's that girl?"
Margaret put a hand on the girl's shoulder, and tried to comfort her. She looked over at her son.
"She's just a guest. Are you ok, Roland?"
Roland wiped a few scraps of tomato off his forehead, and held out his finger, stained red with tomato juice. "No mom, I think I'm gonna die."
"Oh shush, Roland. What did you do to scare the girl so much?"
"What did I do? Nothing! She just attacked me." The boy stole a glance at the girl, who was still cowering behind his mother. She looked around 13 years old, but her timid demeanor made it seem like she was younger. "A feral? Who the hell is she, ma? And, um, why is she walking around half naked?"
Margaret crouched down and gave the girl a reassuring glance, and tried to calm her down. "What's wrong?" Margaret said to the girl. "Roland is my son. There's nothing to be scared of."
The girl ignored her and continued to stare at the symbol on the boy's chest. She clung tightly to Margaret's arm and whimpered pitifully.
Trying to alleviate the situation, Roland stepped towards the girl slowly, and tried to give her a friendly smile. "Hey, umm...I'm sorry if I scared you. I should have made more noise - I was only trying to surprise my parents. It's totally my fault."
As the boy drew closer, the girl let out a small, scared yelp. She let go of Margaret's hand and dashed into the hallway. She scrambled down the hall and into her room, and slammed the door shut.
Roland walked up to his mom with an amused look on his face. "So - uh, mom, can you explain why we have a crazed feral in the house?"
Margaret frowned at her son upon hearing that word. "She's not crazed, Roland. We found her outside the house unconscious and barely alive, and I decided to help her. What did you do to scare her so much, Roland?"
"Really mom, I have no idea...maybe that's how a feral reacts when they see someone extremely handsome?"
"Yeah, you look positively charming with globs of tomato on your face. Here - let me wipe that off..hold still!"
"Ah - stop it mom, you don't have to. Mom! I'll do it myself - agh!" Roland yanked the towel from his mother. She could be so overbearing sometimes.
Margaret let out an exasperated sigh, but decided to relent. She looked her son up and down. He seemed to have grown a bit more muscular since he left for Sentinel training. "You're home early...how did it go in the city?"
"It went OK, I guess," Roland replied. "They assigned me to the Sentinel Scouts trainee division."
"You don't sound that excited. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Well..it's better than being assigned to Army, if that's what you meant..."
"Oh...I remember now. You said you wanted to be one of the Grenadiers? So you could get a chance to use all their 'mega-awesome' rune weapons and artillery, right?" Margaret mockingly pantomimed shooting a rune-bow at her son, who scoffed at her in response.
"The scouts get to use all sorts of neat weaponry too. Besides, they give all the cool missions to the scouts. When I took my leave they were sending out some of the trainees on a real search mission."
Margaret paused and stared at her son for a moment as she considered the implications of what she had just heard. "A search mission? Searching for what?"
Roland caught on quickly. "Mom.."
"What were they searching for, specifically?" Margaret interrupted. She started running through a hundred different scenarios and possibilities in her imagination.
"They didn't tell anyone not directly involved with the mission...but -"
"Roland...the girl...she wasn't scared of you - she was scared of that symbol on your chest. Your father told me when I took the girl in that he had suspected that someone or something was hunting for her..."
"And you think the person they're searching for is that feral girl?"
"Yes," Margaret replied flatly. "Roland, take off your tunic. I have to talk to her and find out her side of the story, and why the Sentinels are looking for her."
"Her side of the story? Mom - if the Sentinels really are looking for her - "
"Just do what I say, Roland. Go change, now." Margaret ignored her son's protest and headed into the hallway and down towards the guest bedroom where the girl had shut herself in. She slowly opened the door and peeked in. She found the fox girl huddled on the far corner of the room in front of her bed. She had droplets of tears in her eyes. Margaret kneeled down next to the girl and tried to comfort her. The girl shrank back and buried her face in one of her bushy fox tails.
"It'll be okay, honey. There's nothing to be afraid of..." Margaret patted the girl comfortingly. The girl looked up at her and sniffled, but remained silent. "Do you have a name? You don't have to give your real name if you don't want to. Just something I can call you."
The fox girl stared at Margaret's mouth, and narrowed her eyes in confusion.
"You don't want to tell me your name?" Margaret brushed the girl's messy and oiled hair back. As if on cue, the girl opened her mouth, seeming to want to say something.
Margaret frowned at the girl. Was she incapable of verbalizing? Now that she thought about it, she had never heard the girl speak anything at all in her short time here. She must be so traumatized. Did the Sentinels do this to her?
The girl suddenly jerked in fear, tugging Margaret's arm and pointing at the doorway.
"Alright mom, I'm not a big scary Sentinel anymore." Roland, who had taken off his tunic, was standing by the doorway, looking at her and the fox girl.
Margaret turned to her son, and shooed him away. "Go away Roland! Can't you see the girl is still terrified of you?"
Roland sighed. Although he was a bit worried about what his mother was thinking just taking in a random feral girl, he still felt a bit annoyed at the fact that he and the girl seemed to have gotten off on the wrong foot. He walked into the room against his mother's protests.
"Let me talk to her. Maybe we're just getting the situation all wrong." He stopped short a couple feet from the girl, and knelt down, looking her in the eyes. The girl continued to stare at the boy in silence. Roland reached into his pockets, and took out a fresh, plump tomato he had taken from the kitchen counter. "Were you hungry? I didn't mean to interrupt your breakfast." Roland gently rolled the tomato over towards the girl. It came to a stop a few inches in front of her.
The girl reached out and picked up the fruit. She held it in her hands and stared down at it for awhile. She then looked up at the boy and, with a sudden motion, drew her hand back and flung the tomato at him.
"Hey!" Roland drew backwards in surprise but the tomato struck him square in the face, making him lose his balance and fall on his butt. The tomato bounced off his head and landed behind him with a splat. The girl let out a short, almost inaudible giggle, but quickly covered it up.
Margaret burst out laughing at her son. Roland was somewhat less amused, but he gave the girl a good natured grin. "Alright, I get it. You don't like tomatoes. I don't like them either, to be honest."
The girl seemed to have stopped crying, and was staring at Roland with a sort of apprehensive look on her face. "Roh," she managed to utter out. "Roh...lan."
"Did she just say my name?" Roland looked at his mother and raised an eyebrow.
Margaret furrowed her brow, and looked down at the girl. "Don't you know how to talk? Are you just scared?" she asked her.
The fox girl stared at Margaret's mouth with a mixed look of frustration and confusion. It seemed as if she could comprehend that they were trying to communicate with her, but it did not look like she understood anything they were saying.
"Mom...I don't think this girl knows how to speak." Roland said.
Margaret turned to her son with a worried expression on her face. "I think you may be right." Although many ferals were known to speak in the ancient, base language of Valoran, communication was still possible because the more advanced human languages were merely evolved dialects from the original language. That this girl did not seem to speak at all was extremely peculiar. Where were her parents? Had she been abandoned? Was she being hunted by the Sentinels? If so, what did they want with her? A variety of different possibilities and explanations flashed through Margaret's mind, but she was interrupted by a tug on her arm. The girl opened her mouth, and patted her lips. She was hungry.
Margaret helped the girl to her feet and led her back to the kitchen. She began preparing something simple for the girl - grilled toast with honey and mashed nut butter. The fox girl used this time to eagerly go through and examine the different types of food items laid out on the kitchen counter. When her son Roland opened a cupboard and took out a basket containing an assortment of summer berries, the girl gasped in delight and started stuffing her face with blueberries and blackberries. Margaret noted how the girl seemed to be much more at ease now, but still never talked, and only used gestures and facial expressions. At one point, the girl picked up a tomato, handed it to Roland, and smiled shyly, almost as if she wanted to apologize to him for her earlier rash actions.
When the toast was done, Margaret pulled up a chair for the girl and motioned for her to sit down. The girl sat there and jabbed her fingers at the toast as if she'd never seen a piece of bread before. It wasn't until she saw Margaret pick up and eat her own toast did she finally decide to take a small bite out of her own piece of bread. Margaret half expected the girl to spit it out, but she seemed to be good humoured about it. The girl picked up a few berries from the fruit basket, spread it over the toast, and then started eating, finally satisfied with the taste. The three of them sat there eating for awhile.
"So when is dad coming back? I'm guessing he's out on a supply run?" Roland said.
"He probably won't be back for a couple hours. We had a really large batch of orders yesterday." Her husband Henry's job was, in essence, a deliveryman - he delivered various fresh foods and supplies that they grew on the the farm to families living in the main city of Piltover. It brought in significantly more money than selling them to wholesale businesses, but was also more time consuming.
Roland's face grew a bit more serious. "Mom - have you thought what you're going to do with the girl? What if the Sentinels really are looking for her? Shouldn't we turn her in?"
"No. I wouldn't turn her in even if they were looking for her. Roland, when I found her, she was in an absolutely pitiful condition. The Sentinels aren't known to be very accommodating towards even the more civilized city-dwelling ferals. Imagine how they would treat this girl?"
"But you don't even know who this girl is, or what her circumstances are -"
"And that's exactly why I'm trying to help her, Roland. She has to have parents, or someone who cares for her. Though judging by her state, I'm not sure if she's even being cared for properly by whoever was raising her."
Roland remained silent after that. He knew his mom tended to be extremely stubborn about her ideals, and he really had no leeway on the matter. Besides, even though he was training to become part of the Sentinels, he too felt conflicted about turning the girl over to them - if they were even looking for her. There were so many mysteries surrounding this girl, and it made him nervous.
After they were finished eating, Margaret went out to tend to her farm duties. Roland decided to spend some more time with the fox girl. The girl was very receptive to him, and he spent some time trying to get the girl to talk. He would point at various things around the house and ask her what is was he was pointing at, but the girl would always just stare at the object and narrow her brow in confusion. When he finally said the object's name out loud, the girl would try to repeat what he had said, with some difficulty. Plate would became "prate", table was "tae-bal", oven sounded like "uff-en", and of course, Roland was "Roh-lan". It was almost cute in a way, like teaching a two-year old how to speak. Try as he might though, he couldn't get the girl to say her own name, even though he thought he had made it very obvious he wanted to know her name. He began to suspect that the girl did not know.
They went on like this for a couple of hours, until they had eventually identified almost everything in the house. The girl then tugged at Roland's hand and pointed towards things she saw outside the kitchen window. The girl desperately wanted to go outside and explore the farm further, and Roland, feeling the effects of the girl's enthusiasm, led her outside. He led her around the farm, exploring the surrounding areas and continuing their little naming game.
It was then that Henry, Roland's father, finally came back from his deliveries. Margaret had just finished tidying up and had locked the doors to the barn when she heard the familiar click-clacking of her husband's delivery cart approaching. She took off her gloves, dusted off her hands and walked towards him, giving him a casual wave. "How were the deliveries?" she called out.
Henry pulled his cart up to a stop next to his wife, then flicked his head back, motioning for her to check the cart. "I managed to sell everything, but most of it was on credit."
Margaret frowned. She knew Henry had been extending credit to his buyers, but it had been awhile since he had been able to bring back any tangible sum of money.
Henry saw the look on his wife's face and shook his head. "Maggie, I had no choice. People don't have money right now. It's because of that damned war those Demacians are fighting. All trade with Demacia is blocked, and you know how the Sentinels have been taxing the hell out of everyone, trying to build up their own army." Henry leaned back and stared up at the sky. "You know, sometimes I wonder if leaving the Sentinels was the right choice."
Margaret stared at her husband. She could sense how frustrated he was. "You don't need to worry about it, Henry. You did what you thought was best for us." She tapped him on the arm, and motioned for him to follow. "Come on inside. Roland's home from his stint with the Sentinels, you know that? He's even taken to the fox girl. They're out somewhere playing right now."
Henry sighed, and hopped off the cart. "You know that feral has to go sooner or later, right? I might have been a former Sentinel, but if they find out we've been harboring a feral I doubt they'd be too happy about it. Nor would anyone else, if they knew."
"Henry, we don't even live in the city. Why would it be an issue?"
"We're still under the jurisdiction of Piltover. It's always been an issue. The ferals brought this on themselves with that mess ten years ago."
"We don't even know if she has anywhere to go. At the very least, we wait until the fighting in Demacia calms down, then we find someone willing to take her and raise her there. She wouldn't have a future in Piltover, Henry. You know that."
"Damnit Maggie," Henry said. "I don't know what's gotten into you. Why did I have to marry someone so stubborn?"
Margaret stroked his shoulder softly, trying to calm him down. "Henry, I'll make it up to you, ok? I just really think this is what's best for the girl."
Henry didn't return the smile, and just walked back to the house in silence. Margaret wrinkled her brow in worry. She hadn't expected Henry to be so adamant about the girl, and began to suspect there might be something he wasn't telling her. She heard some distant laughter, and turned her head to see Roland showing the delighted fox girl one of the stallions they kept on the farm. She smiled, and walked back into the house, more sure of herself than ever that she was doing the right thing.
My father was a good king - a great king. I know you all want vengeance for his death, but understand that we must also consider the danger posed by the barbarians of Fjeljord, as well as invasions from the sea by the shadow kingdoms. I...we will send a tenth - no, I mean, a fifth of my army, and half of the Crownguard army to the front to fight Noxus. I will not be going with them - General Garen will lead in my stead. I know you want retribution, but we must tread carefully. Understand this - I am only doing what I think is right for Demacia.
- Jarvan VI, 18 years old, speech given on the eve of the assassination of Jarvan III
Ch 4 - Demacia - several weeks later
The T-shaped rune silos towered high above Demacia. They were a convincing testament to the city state’s wealth - each rose to a height of over 400 feet. Their metallic exterior shimmered brightly under the heat of the Demacian sun. Summers in western Valoran were almost always warm, breezy, and beautiful - which was a shame, Lux thought to herself, since she was stuck inside a stuffy little room.
She stared apathetically out the window, sorely wishing she were anywhere but here. There really wasn’t anything to see out the window except the flat tops of the silos and a few clouds, but she was trying her best to ignore her tutor Lilith Aubrey, who was quizzing her on light refraction questions. A female feral servant - a half-dog with an elongated face and tufts of hair on her skin - stood by the door in silence, head bowed, waiting impassively. A sharp tap on the desk brought her back to attention.
“Luxanna Crownguard, can you at least pay attention for one question? Now, when a light beam passes through a block of ice at -2 degrees celsius, given an index of refraction of 1.307 for ice, 1.003 for air, and the equation of refraction n1 sin of theta one = n2 sin of theta two, what is the angle of refraction theta two after it crosses the boundary, if the beam’s initial entry point is 37 degrees?”
Lux shrugged her shoulders and stared at Lilith from the corner of her eye. “Twelve?”
Lilith sighed, and flipped a tuft of dark, curly hair away from her eyes. “Lux, you know the answer to this. I know you’re leaving for military assignment tomorrow and it is hard to concentrate, but this is the last class you’re gonna have in awhile. So can you please just humour me?
“Why are you asking me if I already know what it is?” Lux turned and gave her tutor a coy little smile. She began doodling on her sheet of scratch paper.
“Because rune magic boils down to knowing how to manipulate the primal forces and elements nature provides us with. You have a natural talent for light magic, but knowing ‘why’ and ‘how’ it all works is just as important as the actual practice of magic. And in battle, a split second can mean the difference between...”
Lux furrowed her brow in concentration, and continued her doodling. She drew a stick figure adorned with a mess of black, curly hair and angry, stern eyes. When Lilith had finished her little monologue, Lux looked up. “Okay, the answer is three point five seven eight.”
Lilith frowned. “You’re not even trying.” She pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Lux. She glanced at the little doodle and rolled her eyes. “That drawing makes me look like a stern old schoolteacher.”
“That’s because you are a stern old schoolteacher.”
“And you’re a spoiled little brat Luxanna. How about acting your age for once, hmm?”
Lux put down her pencil and set the doodle aside. She wouldn’t have admitted it, but she liked Lilith, and in a way, looked up to her. Being the only daughter of the decorated Crownguard family, and having shown a talent for light magic at a young age, most people expected the world of her, including her parents. Lilith was one of the few who actually treated her like a person.
“And how do you expect a nineteen year old to act, Lilith?” Lux said.
“It isn’t just your age. You are a Crownguard, Lux. Why, when your brother Garen was the same age as you, he led his squad -”
“I don’t need to be told about my brother’s accomplishments,” Lux huffed. Why did everyone want to compare her to her brother? He was almost twelve years older than her - there was no way she could match his list of accolades.
“I did not mean to compare you to your brother, if that’s what you think I’m doing. That man is a physical specimen,” Lilith gushed. “Besides, they finally gave you an active command - it shows they are starting to have more faith in you. Who cares what your brother does?.”
Lux dismissed her remark with a wave of her hand. “Yeah, they have tons of faith in me. They assigned me to lead a squad of one hundred on the second relief battalion.”
Lilith giggled. “And what’s wrong with that? Did you expect them to give you command of an entire vanguard division and just march into battle, with thousands of lives on the line, when you can’t even pay attention for two hours in class?”
Lux opened her mouth to reply, but was left speechless. She had been trying to fish for some sympathy, but hearing Lilith mock her like that made her angry. She felt ready to lead, and Lilith was marginalizing her! She wanted to get up and storm out of the room. Instead she just lowered her head and sulked.
“Oh don’t pout like that, Lux. You have so much potential - you just need to start taking things seriously,” Lilith said. She smiled reassuringly. “Listen - I know you have to meet with Captain Roberts in a few hours, so I think it’s fair to let you out early so you can get some rest and prepare for tomorrow.”
“Well, it’s about time.” Lux got up, and motioned to her feral servant Anne. She obediently opened the door for her.
“Good luck,” Lilith called out.
“Bye Lil.” Lux walked out of the room and her servant closed the door behind her. “Anne, escort me to my room. And please fetch my summer clothes.” The servant complied without a word. As she followed her down the hall, she muttered silently to herself.
“Entry point 37 degrees...theta would equal .603, which means the angle of refraction is 27.5.” Lux smiled. “Easy.”
Lux was standing in front of the mirror in her room, fiddling absentmindedly with the pink quintessence dangling from her neck while Anne buttoned her dress from behind. It could barely be called a quint - just a tiny flake, the same size as a Demacian penny. It was really only useful for small light tricks. Despite that, she always carried it around with her wherever she went. It wasn’t always practical to lug a heavy wand everywhere, and she felt naked without a source of rune nearby.
She heard someone knock on the door, and Lux directed her servant to go open it. She stared at her blonde, shoulder length curled hair from the mirror and tried to fix it up as best she could. Anne could be slow in the head sometimes, but she was a spectacular hairdresser, if nothing else. She marveled at how Anne could turn her normally straight, limp hair into cascades of spritely little curls. She just hoped he would like it.
Still staring straight ahead at the mirror, Lux briefly touched her quint with two fingers, and focused on the mirror’s reflection. The light rays reflecting off the mirror shifted subtly, allowing her a full view of the door to her left. To a person unaccustomed to optical tricks, the altered view would have been disorienting, but not to her. She felt a tinge of excitement course throughout her body as she saw a young man walk in. She appraised him from head to toe. He had a lean but athletic build - not as tall or muscular as say, her brother Garen, for example - but that was a good thing. His conservative, cropped hair and stubbly beard belied a glint of mischief apparent in his dark eyes. Lux found him irresistible, but she continued to stare at him secretly from the mirror’s altered reflection, waiting for him to make the first move.
The young man gave a polite bow, then looked up and grinned. He side stepped quickly out of the line of view of the altered mirror. Caught by surprise, Lux twirled around. She found the young man right behind her.
The man put his arms around Lux’s slender waist, and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, silencing her. “Hello, my pretty little Luxanna,” the man said cheerily.
Lux smiled at him sweetly, her pale blue eyes twinkling. “I’ve missed you, Justin.”
Justin let out a short little laugh, then tugged on her hand, leading her towards the door. “Come on, I want to show you something amazing before we leave tomorrow.”
Lux followed him as he tugged her onwards, but was stopped by a touch on her shoulder.
“Miss...miss Lux...” Anne said in a halting, heavily accented voice.
Lux let go of Justin’s hand, and turned to look at her servant, slightly annoyed at her interruption. “Yes, Anne?”
“Miss Lux, you have meeting with soldier boss. Clock 7:00.” Anne bowed her head respectfully.
“Yes Anne, I’m aware of that. I will be back in time. You may do as you wish around the house until I return.” Lux turned again to leave, but the feral grabbed her hand forcefully.
“Please, Miss Lux. You leave, you always late come. Master Garen tell me, Miss Lux no leave. If leave, punish Anne. Anne no like punish.”
Lux angrily jerked her hand away. “How dare you restrain me, you stupid animal!” She raised her hand as if to slap her servant, but Justin stepped in between them.
“Wait, Lux.” Justin turned to the feral, who had not moved and was still staring down at the floor. “Anne, I only want to show her one last thing before we leave on assignment tomorrow. I promise you I’ll bring her back in time, okay? You don’t have to worry about being punished.”
Anne continued to stare at the floor, and remained silent. Justin reached into his pocket and took out a gold-plated pocket watch. He opened it, then grabbed the feral’s arm and placed the watch in her hand.
“The meeting with her Captain is at 7:00, right? You keep watch of the clock. If we come back and it’s past 6:00, I’ll let you keep the watch, no questions asked, ok?” He grinned reassuringly at Anne.
“Justin, you’re being ridiculous,” Lux complained.
“It’s alright, Lux. Let’s go.”
The pair left the room, leaving Anne alone with Justin’s pocket watch. The feral watched the seconds tick by as she admired its beautiful golden frame. She let herself pretend that she actually owned the valuable little accessory. Even if it was temporary, it was still the most valuable thing she had ever owned.
“Why did you give her your pocket watch, Justin? That was so silly,” Lux said. She and Justin were walking down one of the main streets of Demacia, which was bustling with carts, stores, and revelers who had come out to window shop and enjoy the beautiful sunny day.
“I was just trying not to make a mess,” Justin replied. “Why do you treat her so badly? Anne seems so loyal to you.”
“I wasn’t going to hit her, you know. I just..” Lux bit her lip in frustration. Why did Anne have to embarrass her like that? She didn’t mean to get so angry, but the stupid half-dog had kept provoking her.
“Just what? Anne was right, you know. You’re late to meetings a lot, and she often gets the punishment for letting you leave.”
“And who’s fault is that? You’re the one who insists on taking me out all the time,” Lux teased.
“Haha. You don’t even tell me about your appointments, so how would I know if you’re late for something?”
“Well, you never ask. Did you assume I just spend all of my time sitting at home with nothing to do, waiting for you to come?”
Justin chuckled. “Well then it’s a good thing Anne let me know about your meeting then. I’m gonna make sure you’re back by 6:00.”
Lux grabbed Justin’s hand. She was tired of thinking about Anne and the meeting with Captain Roberts. “You said you had something amazing to show me? Well, what was it?”
“You’ll see when we get there. Just follow me.”
Lux followed him as they walked down the busy street, passing storefronts hawking a variety of unique gadgets and trinkets, and others selling more basic items like breads and cheeses. Most of the commoners and revelers ignored the duo - the Western District of Demacia was known to be particularly high class - but a few bowed or curtsied out of respect for a member of the Crownguards.
Her boyfriend, Justin Altard, was from a relatively unknown family. They had met a little over a year ago, when Lux had received her commission and been assigned the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the Crownguard army. Justin had been assigned as her senior NCO.
Her superiors had initially expected much from her, but her lax discipline and immature behavior had tarnished her reputation severely. When she had sought out a relationship with her 2nd in command, it only cemented in her superior’s minds that giving her a commission at such a young age had been a mistake, despite her lineage. In truth, although she disparaged it, the fact that she had been assigned command of a hundred soldiers in a reserve battalion had been an act of extreme generosity - one which no doubt had been influenced by her brother, Garen.
Justin led her down a side street leading towards one of the massive Rune silos placed at various spots in Demacia, which mined the liquid magic deep beneath the earth that provided Valoran with it’s boundless energy and magic. When they reached the brick walls surrounding the silo, Justin motioned for Lux to stay silent, then led her around towards the back of the wall.
“Why did you lead me here? There’s nothing to see here,” Lux whispered.
Justin simply grunted, then took out a small dagger from his waist. He approached the wall and put his hand up to it, feeling for the small crack he had seen earlier. Once he found it, he stabbed the knife into it, pushing it in all the way to create a stable foothold at waist level. He took a few steps back, then rushed at the wall and jumped. Using his momentum, he placed a foot onto the hilt and pushed off it, propelling him upwards just enough so that he could grab onto the top of the wall. He lifted himself up, then looked back down expectantly at Lux.
Lux looked up at him and frowned. “It’s too high for me.”
“It’ll be ok. Come on, jump!”
Lux had her doubts, but she didn’t want to look like a coward in front of Justin, so she dashed towards the wall and jumped up. She stepped on the dagger’s hilt and pushed off, but the knife wobbled out slightly, causing her to slam her knee into the wall. She cried out in surprise, but Justin reached out and grabbed hold of her hand. With a sharp tug, he pulled her up onto the wall. Once safe, Lux sat back and rubbed her bruised knee, but heard Justin laughing at her.
“Who told you to step on the dagger? That was just for me to get up. You could have just jumped straight up and I would have reached down and grabbed you,” he said, still laughing.
“You’re an idiot Justin. I could have done it myself,” Lux said bitterly. She got up and walked past him, down along the wall.
“Hey wait up. Do you even know where you’re going?”
“Of course I do. I don’t need you to lead me anywhere. I’m your superior officer, remember?” she called back with a smirk.
Lux continued to ignore Justin and walked briskly along the wall. She stopped over a small storage container that had been placed up against the wall . She hopped down on top of the container, approached the edge and, ignoring the dull pain in her knee, jumped off and onto the ground. She turned and looked up at Justin.
“Well? Hurry up!” she said impatiently. She was still angry about Justin laughing at her.
She watched Justin hop onto the container and then leap off it onto the ground.
“Alright, lieutenant Lux, where do we go next?” Justin said.
“We’re going into the silo, sargeant. Try not to fall behind,” Lux retorted.
She walked quickly towards one of the entry points into the structure. She could hear the periodic hum that emitted from the silo as it siphoned liquid magic from deep inside the earth up into the large disc at the top, to eventually be cooled into crystal form.
“May I offer a suggestion, lieutenant?” Justin called out from behind.
“You may, and I might even consider it.”
“If we just barge in through the front door, we’re likely to be caught by the workers. I have an alternate route that can let us enter undetected, but since I’m just a lowly soldier, I’m willing to defer to your wise leadership.” Justin paused, then politely added, “Sir.”
Lux stopped, then spun around. She was indignant. “You know, as ‘impossible’ as it may seem, I’ve been inside a Rune silo before. They will permit a Crownguard inside, though I can’t say the same for -”
Justin rushed forward and put a hand over her mouth. Lux started protesting angrily, but he motioned for her to be silent.
“Shut up for a second, will you? Someone’s coming out.”
Lux bit her lip - she had quite a few choice words she still wanted to say - but she decided to put them aside for now. The door opened, and a gruff looking worker came out, whistling a happy little tune. Lux grabbed Justin’s hand. “Stay still,” she whispered.
Lux grabbed the quintessence she wore on her neck, and concentrated on the light reflecting off her and Justin. She knew that people saw, for example, a green object only because that object reflects green light off it while absorbing all other colors. She couldn’t just alter the angles of the light rays - if no light entered the eye, the result would make them appear as a human-shaped black stain in the air. Instead, she diverted the path of the light rays around them temporarily - kind of like how water flows around a rock in a river instead of through it. The result was that, when the worker turned his head and looked directly at where they were standing, he didn’t see them - he saw the object behind them, as if nothing was there. It was all just an optical illusion, of course, but one that couldn’t be sustained for long - the tiny rune flake started to shudder and grow dim. Lux pleaded for the man to hurry up and leave.
The worker squinted his eyes and stared hard at where the pair were standing. Something looked a little off - he could swear the supply container he saw over by the wall looked weird - almost as if it were slightly disjointed. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head.
God, he really needed to get home and get some rest. He made a promise to himself to stop working those double shifts - they were making him crazy! He walked forward, then stopped inches away from where the pair were standing. He took out a wrapped sandwich, unwrapped it, and started eating. He stared up at a couple songbirds nesting in a tree, and smiled. What a beautiful day, he thought to himself. It was a shame he still had six more hours until his shift was up. Six more hours of being cooped up in the stupid silo, stuck with the monotonous task of monitoring the temperature and conditions to make sure the raw liquid magic cooled properly to form usable rune crystals.
Will you please hurry up and eat your damn sandwich? I don’t know how much longer my quint will last! Lux stared at the man out of the corner of her eye. He smelled like musty old clothes and dried sweat.
Finally finished with his meal, the man turned and started walking back into the building. He discarded the wrapper nonchalantly behind him. It floated about in the wind, then got caught on Justin’s head. If the worker had bothered to turn around, he would have seen the wrapper just floating in mid air.
As the worker closed the door behind him, Lux’s quintessence vibrated slightly, then went still, spent of all it’s magic energy. It’s pink glow faded and turned into a dull, translucent blue. The pair re-appeared. Lux breathed a sigh of relief, then looked at Justin with a grin.
“That wrapper totally suits you,” she said.
Justin snatched the wrapper from his head and threw it away in disgust. “Wow. That was just nasty.” He turned to look at Lux. “So, lieutenant, what about my suggestion? Shall I lead you to the alternate route so we can avoid the evil sandwich man?”
“Oh, will you stop calling me that?” Lux was trying to be serious, but she couldn’t help but laugh.
“Sir yes sir. Whatever you say sir.” Justin started walking towards the side of the building.
“I hate you, Justin. I mean it.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I try everyday to be a better man.”
Justin walked over to a small protrusion on the side of the building, then opened up a small service door. It revealed a short passage leading into the building; at the end of the passage was a ladder leading up. The pair ducked into the passage and climbed up the ladder to the second level, which was just a small room containing a mechanical elevator. They entered the elevator, and Justin started turning the lever. The elevator started rising at a steady pace.
“How did you even know there was an elevator here?” Lux asked him.
Justin grinned. “My dad used to work as a mechanic. When I was sixteen, I used to go with my dad and help him perform maintenance repairs on all the silos. Most people have only seen the first floor of the silos, but this service elevator allowed us go up to the higher floors and perform whatever work needed to be done to keep everything working.”
Lux stared up, but could only see the occasional row of lights that highlighted the ground level of each floor, stretching infinitely up into the distance. Just how high did this elevator go? All the way to the top? Silos were massive structures - most rose up to a height of around 400 feet.
They passed floor after floor, until finally they reached the very top. Lux followed Justin out of the elevator and down a short, dark hallway, which led to another ladder. They climbed up to a small overhead door. When Justin reached up and opened it, a flood of blinding sunlight poured in, forcing Lux to squint her eyes as they tried to adjust to the sudden brightness.
“Come on, we’re almost there,” Justin called out. He climbed up and through the overhead door, and Lux followed him up.
They were outside. Lux gazed around at her surroundings. They were on top of a large circular platform. At the center were a stack of large, circular steam vents which let out the heat generated by the hot liquid magic inside. Justin walked over to the edge of the platform, and called out for Lux to come. She followed him. A few pigeons could be seen perching on the edges of the platform, cooing obnoxiously over the quiet hiss of the steam vents.
As Lux peered over the edge of the platform, she gasped, and instinctively reached out for Justin’s hand. They were on the roof of the silo, over 400 feet up into the air. She felt a thrilling chill run down her spine as she peered down over the gold and blue rooftops of Demacia, which stretched out for miles until it reached the coastline of the Conqueror's Ocean. The water gave off a deep blue shimmer, with streaks of glittering pink where the liquid magic rose up from natural vents deep beneath the ocean floor, crystallizing into random, natural formations as it floated up to the surface. As she gazed at the incredible sight before her, Lux could feel a certain pride in her place of birth, one of the mightiest cities in all of Valoran.
“This is amazing, Justin,” Lux cried out.
Justin smiled, and led her down to the edge. They both sat there with hands clasped, 400 feet up in the air, legs dangling perilously over the precipice. Lux pointed to a building she knew well, with it’s domed golden top crested with multiple flagpoles bearing the symbol of the Crownguards.
“There’s my home,” she said, smiling contentedly.
“It’s incredible, isn’t it? I used to go up here every few days to help my father clean out the steam vents, but I usually ended up spending hours just staring out at the Demacian skyline and the countryside beyond,” Justin said. “It got me thinking...what else was I missing out on? Did I want to spend the rest of my life as a silo mechanic, stuck inside one city until the day I die?”
Lux squeezed Justin’s hand, and grinned at him. “Is that why you decided to enlist in the Crownguard army?”
“Yep. I didn’t want to just be a nameless grunt in the King’s main army. The Crownguards are Demacia’s elite soldiers. If I worked hard enough, I knew it was possible with them to rise up in the ranks and make a name for myself.”
Lux looked down, and bit her lip. She thought about how she never took her duties seriously, how she always took her privilege for granted. If she hadn’t been born a Crownguard, she probably wouldn’t have even been considered for an officer’s commission. She thought of an incident Justin had told her about a few months back.
“I remember you turning down an offer to fight under my brother Garen’s command a few months ago. That was your chance to make officer,” Lux said. She felt a knot in her stomach as she began to realize what Justin had sacrificed for her.
Justin laughed, and squeezed her hand. “There’s gonna be other chances. I just didn’t want to make a choice I’ll regret later.”
Lux leaned in closer and placed her head on Justin’s shoulder. They sat there, cuddling each other while gazing out at the vast ocean and the beautiful, sparkling city before them. Lux promised herself that she would try to take her duties as an officer and Crownguard more seriously. In truth, she had been in a sort of denial when she heard of King Jarvan III’s death, but the reality was that Demacia was now at war with their longtime nemesis, Noxus. The general sentiment then had been that Jarvan VI was not ready to lead as Demacia’s king, and his indecisiveness had proven costly for Demacia in the early stretches of the war. It was up to its citizens to step up.
Justin stroked his hand gently through Lux’s hair, then got up.
“Come on Lux. It’s gonna be time for your officer’s meeting soon. I promised myself that I would get you back in time.”
“Can we stay just a little longer? It’s so lovely up here,” Lux said sadly. She got up, and took one last look at the ocean, and sighed. “You’re right, Justin. Lets go.”
Justin gave her a kiss on the cheeks. Lux smiled, and embraced him around his waist. They turned to leave. Behind them, the city continued the monotonous hustle and bustle of city life. Further on, a small line of heavily armed soldiers could be seen marching quickly towards the eastern gate of Demacia, their destination and fate uncertain as the ominous portent of war lingered in each of their minds.
Very good! I like your portrayal of Ahri as a young, confused child, the naivety of which contrasts well with her cold, dangerous, and seductive nature as an older teen/adult. Though I've never really liked Jayce's character, I'm proudly part of the Ahri-club, and I love the potentially rich and yet unexplored history behind the nine tailed fox. I look forward to more from you in the future!
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