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***NEW!!! Chapter: 12 - Aftermath***
This story is also found on fanfiction.net, at this link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8422210/..._of_Desolation
An expected comment by Ironstylus?
Chapter 2 - Awakening
The hospital wing of the Institute of War was usually a quiet place, save for the occasional medical emergency that, once in a while, befell an unfortunate Summoner or two. It stood upon a small cliff that looked to the north, granting those recovering in its beds a beautiful view of the Ironspike Mountains.
Atop of the hospital wing was a large glass dome, kept completely spotless through magic, which allowed an undisturbed view of the horizon from within. The Solarium, originally made as a greenhouse to grow medicinal herbs, had ceased its use in that capacity after various similar facilities had been built throughout Demacia and Piltover. It was now being used for the treatment of a very special patient, who slept in a large bed in the center.
The sun was rising to the east, its rays shining down on the greenhouse dome.
Yet the patient could only toss and turn in her bed. A nightmare plagued her sleep.
Clouds of darkness swirled all around. The woman, blind and frightened, stumbled through the smog, trying to find a light, any light. Her lungs were screaming for air, for the air she breathed in was poison. Her arms and legs continued to weaken. She wanted to cry for help, but her voice had left her.
She collapsed on her knees, barely holding herself up with her hands. She wanted to cry, wanted someone to save her from this darkness that surrounded her.
She heard a breath approaching her. She looked to the source.
She watched as flames of darkness swept upon her, veiling a pair of glowing golden eyes.
Leona screamed as she bolted upright in her bed, the nightmare ending.
A moment of silence passed where the only sound was of Leona’s distressed breathing. A moment later, however, the sounds of chirping birds and gentle breezes could be heard again. Yet Leona’s breath did not slow or lower in intensity.
She placed a hand to her chest, trying to calm herself. She found she was only dressed in a thin, sleeveless amber nightgown, otherwise surrounded by a soft bed of white sheets. She was drenched in sweat.
Light began to sweep over Leona’s body, and she turned to see the rising of the sun. Unlike many who would have been blinded by staring at the sun, Leona was not. Its beaming rays were a welcome sight to her weary eyes.
Her breathing slowed, resuming a normal pace. She glanced around the Solarium, noticing her armor and the Solari shield and sword on a nearby table, neatly arranged and spotlessly cleaned.
Leona placed a hand to her forehead, reassuring herself that it had all been a dream.
But… what was she doing in the Solarium? The last she could remember…
The sound of a door opening caught Leona’s attention. Her eyes snapped to the entrance.
A familiar beaming face greeted her eyes, matched by a similarly beaming voice.
“Leona? Leona, you’re awake!” exclaimed Lux.
Leona could barely react before Lux ran over to the bed and wrapped her arms around her in a bear hug. Her cheeks reddened ever so slightly.
“Oh, I’ve missed you so much, Leo!” Lux said rapidly, squeezing the redhead as tightly as she could, more out of happiness than intent. “They said you could’ve been in that coma for years! Thank the light it was only a couple of months! I–”
“Lux, I– wait, what?” As gently as she could, considering Lux’s continued stammering, Leona separated herself from the blonde and asked, “Lux, what did you just say?”
“Huh? I just said it was so droll without you here and–”
“No, before that. How… how long have I been here?”
Lux paused in confusion for a moment, and then answered, “You’ve been here for about two months now. Ever since the incident.”
Something snapped into place for Leona, her mind flashing back to the last thing she could remember before blacking out. A brief gasp escaped her lips as she recalled it.
A dark cave… dozens of Summoners in panic… Karthus restrained by Adjudicators…
The Dragon of Desolation!
Leona’s eyes shot wide open. She scrambled to leave the bed and don her armor, but felt Lux grab her arm before she could escape the bedcovers.
“Leo, what are you doing?” Lux yelped.
“I have to stop him!” Leona answered quickly, trying to pull free of Lux’s grip. She wouldn’t let go. “Lux, let go!”
“Wait, Leona, don’t! It’s alright!”
“Calm yourself, Paladin Leona,” said a man’s voice.
Stopping almost immediately, Leona turned to the familiar voice, one she had heard both in person and in her mind before on many occasions. Standing at the entrance to the Solarium was Senior Summoner Ezekiel Montrose, a well known and respected man at the Institute of War for his impartial, yet understanding nature.
“Summoner Montrose…” said Leona.
“You gave quite a few people in the hospital wing a start, Leona. In fact, I heard that scream all the way in the library.”
“W-What happened to me?” Leona asked. Then, re-realizing what she was doing a second earlier, she asked with concern, “Where is the dragon? Where is–”
“Plagueis the Vile still resides with Death’s Spire. Thanks to your help, we were able to trap him in the barrier matrix. But you overexerted yourself in battling him and, as a result… well, I needn’t explain it. It is passed now.”
Leona breathed a sigh of relief, yet said relief was short for her upon realizing something. She looked back at Montrose and asked, “He is only contained?”
Montrose nodded, clearly in dislike. “Karthus did his work well. The Dragon of Desolation has been all but immune to our attempts to destroy him.”
Leona’s heart sank. Plagueis, the mortal enemy of her predecessor, returned from death, and the Summoners were powerless to destroy him?
“There is much for us to explain to you, Leona, but it can wait. For now, I have asked for the Starchild to see that you are well. Please, wait for her here. We will send for you soon.”
After a moment of pause, Leona said, “Thank you, Summoner Montrose.”
As Montrose turned to leave, he gestured to Lux and said “We should be going, Luxanna.”
“Huh?” said Lux. “I wanted to stay here with–”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in a match in about… seven minutes on the Crystal Scar?”
Lux practically jumped in her seat, remembering she had a match to attend to. Garen was going to be on her team for the battle, and he would be furious if she was late again.
“It’s alright, Lux,” said Leona. “You get to your match.”
Lux nodded with slight reluctance, getting to her feet and following Montrose out of the Solarium, leaving Leona alone to wait for Soraka. She fell back onto the bed as exhaustion washed over her; despite her long slumber, she felt completely restless.
It only took Soraka a short while to clear Leona from the hospital wing – not at all surprising to the Rakkorian. The Starchild’s skill with healing magic was second to none. Very little was needed on the part of Soraka’s magic, though she wanted to be sure Leona was in complete health before she allowed the paladin to leave.
Yet now she was suffering from something Soraka’s magic couldn’t help with: hunger.
Dressed in her golden armor, Leona stepped out of the hospital wing, hoping perhaps to appease her stomach at the dining hall. She silently hoped in the back of her mind that there would be some sausages or at least an apple tart left over.
“You took your time, Solari,” said a man’s voice, one she had known since childhood.
Leona turned to Pantheon, his face hidden as always behind his helmet, his spear and aegis in hand. In the halls of the Institute, it wasn’t easy to see his expression; Leona knew, though, that even seeing his face wouldn’t have told her much of what he was feeling.
“To be trapped in such a state for so long?” said Pantheon. “How pathetic. Any true warrior of Rakkor would gladly have chosen death instead of such inactivity.”
Leona frowned, but said nothing in response. Pantheon was saying harsh things, for certain, but she knew it was his way. He was quite the zealot in her eyes, always thinking of warfare; it was why he had been chosen amongst Rakkor’s warriors to be a Champion.
Deciding there was no need to indulge Pantheon, Leona continued past him down the hall. Pantheon merely watched, making a snide “Hmph” as she left.
A few minutes later, Leona found herself outside the Summoning Chamber, a sort of gathering room for Champions who were entering the Fields of Justice. Outside she could hear the cheers and jeers of thousands of people who were in the Arena, where the public could watch the matches magically. From the noise, Leona guessed a match had just ended.
The doors swung open as Summoners and Champions exited, having finished a match. In particular, Leona watched as Sivir stormed out of the chamber angrily, pushing aside Summoners who were in her path in a huff. Clearly she had been on the losing team; she had always been a bad sport when she lost. Judging by her mood this time, however, she had probably just lost a sizeable wager.
“Don’t take it so hard, Siv!” shouted Lux, who suddenly appeared at the doors. “Maybe next time you should try holding back your spell shields until before I fire my laser!”
Leona couldn’t help but laugh at this, unsure whether Lux was insulting Sivir or trying to give her advice. Either would’ve been salt on an open wound.
Hearing her, Lux turned and said, “Oh, Leona! You’re up!”
Nodding, Leona replied, “Soraka says I’m in good health. Though…” Stopping as she put a hand to her stomach, she added, “I wish I could say the same for my appetite.”
Lux giggled as she heard Leona’s stomach growl at that moment, as if on cue. “You’re right. The food at the hospital wing can barely be called that. Come on, let’s go get brunch.”
As Lux and Leona were about to head for the dining hall, the two stopped upon hearing an authoritative voice say, “Luxanna, where are you off to?”
Noticing a look of displeasure on Lux’s face, Leona turned to Garen as he said, “We need to report our victory to his majesty.”
Before Leona could find anything to say, Lux answered, “I’m sure you can handle that by yourself, big brother.” Her tone when referring to Garen dripped with annoyance.
As Garen attempted to say something to his sister, Lux and Leona strode away, leaving the Might of Demacia rubbing his eyes with a groan.
To Leona’s fortune, there was still plenty of food left in the dining hall. She sat across from Lux at a small table near a window, a plate of bacon, eggs and apple slices before her. Lux was in the middle of wolfing down her serving; Leona was always surprised by how Lux had such an appetite, yet still was so much smaller than her.
As she gulped down a sliced portion of her eggs, Lux said, “So there Garen was at the Windmill, about to get swarmed by Evelynn, Sion and Gangplank. Right when he’s about to get his butt kicked by Sion… BLAM! I blasted all three of them with one shot! Teehee, they never saw it coming!”
Leona laughed as she said, “You’ve always been one for making an entrance, Lux.” Then, sighing as Lux quickly gulped down a glass of milk, Leona added, “It’s good to see you. And it’s good to see that things haven’t changed much in two months.”
The paladin turned to look around the dining hall, seeing Summoners in discussion while Rammus sat near the buffet table, feasting on a large quantity of fruits and vegetables. The Armordillo was clearly enjoying his meal, not even noticing the damage his spikes were doing to his seat’s leather cushions.
After a short pause, however, Lux said, “Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s been a real shift in power among the Champions.”
“What do you mean?”
Lux then gestured to the bar section of the dining hall, which was close by. Leona turned to see Graves and Corki, both seemingly drowning themselves in liquor. While this wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for the two, Leona could feel something was off.
She then heard Corki say, “Dang giant lizard. He’s a real Black Baron, that one.”
“I hear you, Cork,” Graves replied in a drunken slur. “Destiny here couldn’t even put a dent in that black-scaled varmint up close.” Then, turning to the barkeeper as he raised a shot glass, he said, “Barkeep, another shot o’ the five X stuff.”
Giant lizard? Black-scaled? What did they mean? They couldn’t have meant…
“Miss Crownguard? Paladin Leona?” said a voice. The two turned to see an Adjudicator, who then said, “The Council wishes for your attendance in a meeting as soon as possible.”
Leona was now quite worried. What was going on?
Chapter 3 - Undefeated
Rumble checked the pressure gauge on Tristy’s hydraulics. The gauge was slowly, but surely, decreasing in pressure; the mech was leaking hydraulic fluid. Probably a line had been cut while he had been fighting Shaco, who now was waiting to be revived.
“Great…” Rumble thought, his thoughts echoing in his Summoner’s mind. “Just when I don’t need her to start breakin’ down on me.”
“What of the rest of your machine?” the Summoner asked telepathically. “Can it still fight?”
“No worries,” Rumble said aloud. “You’ve still got lots’a fight left in ya, right girl?”
The mech’s response was a loud sputtering sound from its insides, hardly reassuring to the blue Yordle pilot. Still, he firmly grasped the controls, and hoped that Tristy would hold out until Blitzcrank and Miss Fortune showed up. Considering what he was up against, however, he couldn’t help but have his doubts.
A huge gust of wind blew through the southern half of the forest of Summoner’s Rift. A shadow passed over the Mechanical Menace’s head. The Yordle’s hairs stood on end.
“Oh… nuts and bolts…” Rumble said to himself, his eyes glued skyward at a massive shape.
Rumble watched as the enormous form of the Dragon of Desolation, upon wings of death, banked right in preparation to attack the Yordle and his mech. The dragon’s piercing golden eyes fixated on his foe, who sat surrounded by a mass of metal and various leaking fluids.
“Dir ku maar!” Plagueis roared as he began his dive.
The neon flames licking at Plagueis’ maw forced Rumble to steel himself. The front of his mech tilted forward as he activated Tristy’s best weapon: the Equalizer. Multiple napalm missiles launched from the mech’s back and careened wildly at Plagueis.
The dragon did not change his course as streams of dark fire jetted from his mouth. Two of the missiles were caught by the flames and exploded, setting the forest below ablaze for a moment. Another two of the missiles went off course from the blast, crashing into the ground. A fifth missile streaked past the dragon’s right wing, exploding behind him. The sixth and seventh, however, struck their mark, engulfing Plagueis in a cloud of fire.
Rumble smirked as he watched the fireworks… until Plagueis burst from the flames, undamaged, and mad as a hornet.
His face now in stark terror, Rumble raised his mech’s Flamespitter to attempt a hasty defense, hoping to perhaps dissuade Plagueis from his dive. Plagueis was upon him, however, as dark fire rained down upon the Yordle and his machine. Metal began to corrode, and fuel began to blaze as the mech’s instruments screeched of danger.
Rumble knew Tristy was done for. Immediately he reached for a lever below his seat and yanked it, activating the ejector seat. The seat literally shot upward on a spring, a mere second before the mech exploded.
Rumble didn’t even have a chance to watch his mech’s remains, as he turned to see Plagueis flying right at him, his fangs open in anticipation.
Rumble’s panicked cry was cut short as Plagueis’ jaws violently snapped shut, crushing the Yordle. A flash of blue light shot from Plagueis’ teeth, the work of the Summoner’s magic pulling Rumble from death’s embrace.
The Dragon of Desolation slowly floated to the ground, picking at his teeth with a splintered claw.
“How bitter… Hmm… and salty…” Plagueis said with a hint of slight distaste as he picked up a broken piece of Rumble’s mech, using it as a toothpick.
Yet as the dragon picked a small tuft of blue Yordle fur from his fangs and flicked away the piece of debris, he jerked back as a metallic hand shot out of the trees and wrapped around his neck. Snarling, Plagueis immediately knew whose hand it had to be, turning to face the Great Steam Golem.
Blitzcrank grasped his right wrist with his left hand, using all his magical strength to try and keep the dragon pinned to the ground. Electricity surged through the arm, channeling into Plagueis. The dragon howled in rage as he pulled against the golem’s might.
Then, as Plagueis turned his head, intending to melt the golem into scrap metal, a torrent of lead bullets began to pepper the dragon’s body. Standing behind the dragon, Sarah Fortune unloaded her twin pistols at Plagueis as rapidly as she could, blasting away at the dragon’s hide. Yet the dragon did not turn; the bullets continually bounced off the black scales, or else were ignored by Plagueis, his attention focused on Blitzcrank.
Grunting as he struggled against Blitzcrank’s grasp, electricity coursing through his decaying body, Plagueis snarled, “Impressive, golem… Yeessss…”
The dragon wrapped a massive claw around the long cable that connected Blitzcrank’s hand to his arm, seemingly unaffected by the electrical torrent that surged through him. Blitzcrank’s metal eyes widened in surprise as, suddenly, Plagueis spread his wings and rocketed skyward, pulling the metal golem with him.
As Blitzcrank hung suspended in the air, kept aloft by the dragon’s necromantic flight, Miss Fortune could only watch in a mix of amazement and dread. Then, Plagueis’ fangs dug into the cable, close to Blitzcrank’s hand, and sheared the cable in two, severing the golem from his hand. The metallic appendage released its grip on Plagueis’ neck, and fell toward the ground.
Before the hand could even impact, however, Plagueis swung the half of the cable he still held, still attached to Blitzcrank, and sent the golem careening at the Bounty Hunter.
Miss Fortune could only manage a brief “Oh no…” before the golem smashed into her, sending them both to the ground in a mangled heap. As the dust cleared from the impact, Miss Fortune slowly tried to push herself up, only to realize she was stuck underneath Blitzcrank’s heavy metal body. Her leg was burning from pain, likely broken by the impact. Before she could even try to pull herself free, she felt the ground quake.
The redhead turned as Plagueis’ mouth surged with fire, directed right at her.
“…Why me…?” Miss Fortune whimpered. A second later, she screamed.
Dark flames engulfed the two Champions, sending a pair of blue lights skyward from their bodies, their souls spared. Plagueis did not even watch as his foes burned to a crisp.
“Bah… how pathetic…” Plagueis snarled.
“You share my sentiments, Vulfeynnax,” said a female voice from the trees.
Plagueis immediately turned to the voice, anticipating another fight. From the woods came a woman dressed in red-scaled armor, her skin a dark grey. Her hands seemed to end in claws, fitted to gauntlets that took the image of a dragon’s maw. Her eyes, like Plagueis’, glowed golden.
Shyvana’s true nature immediately clicked in for Plagueis as he gazed at her, for she had referred to him by his Draconic name: Dark Bane Cruelty.
“Ah… the tongue of my kind… or should I say, our kind, half-whelp?” said Plagueis. “So you are Shyvana, the so-called “half dragon”, Yeessss…?”
“And you are the destroyer my father spoke of. He spoke at length of you, Vulfeynnax. Betrayer. Murderer.”
“You do me too little honor, whelp. I was expecting the half-breed spawn of my kind to be more… impressive than this. Not even fit to receive a true Dov name. No…”
“The Champions you have faced up to this point are but specks compared to me. And by the blood of my father, I will end you, Vulfeynnax!”
Plagueis bellowed with laughter at this threat. “Then come, half-whelp, and show me the power granted to you by our kind!”
With a shout, Shyvana charged forward as fire surrounded her body. The flames molded as her body began its transformation, wings of fire spreading to her sides as she took flight. Plagueis lifted off the ground as Shyvana collided with him, sending the two tumbling through the air briefly before Plagueis rocketed skyward, breaking the clash.
The dragon Shyvana rose swiftly from the trees, fire still ebbing from her wings and fangs. Her talons locked forward, Shyvana roared for blood as she met the undead dragon head on. As she shoved him further into the sky, Shyvana unleashed a torrent of fire from her mouth, burning Plagueis at point blank range. Growling in anger, Plagueis countered with a slash of his claws, drawing blood from Shyvana. As she recoiled, Plagueis dived at her, grasping at Shyvana’s wings and tearing into her scales as she clawed back. The two descended in a tumble, rapidly approaching the ground as they fought, tooth and claw against scale and sinew, surrounded by crimson and neon fire.
Yet it was Plagueis who landed the decisive blow. Venomous fangs sunk into Shyvana’s left shoulder, causing her to shriek loudly in agony, her offensive halting just as the two struck the ground. The impact sent Shyvana rolling a short distance, knocking over several trees as she hit them.
Plagueis shook his head with a groan of annoyance as he righted himself and turned back to his half-dragon opponent. Shyvana lay on her front on the ground, bloodied and struggling to stand. Fire still ebbed from her teeth, yet it was diminishing.
Simultaneously, the two dragons unleashed streams of fire at one another, the two pillars of flame impacting each other in a clash. Yet a mere second later, it was clear that Plagueis’ fire was the stronger of the two, pushing toward Shyvana rapidly. Despite her best efforts, Shyvana howled in pain as she was engulfed by neon fire, and collapsed to her knees.
Plagueis laughed tyrannically as he walked toward Shyvana on all fours, an almost imperialistic swagger in his step. A moment later, as Shyvana turned again to face Plagueis, she was struck to the ground by the dark dragon’s claw, leaving a terrible scar across her maw. Battered and covered in blood, Shyvana’s breathing became erratic as she lay at Plagueis’ feet.
As Plagueis planted a claw down on Shyvana’s back, pinning her to the ground, he said, “You wield the power of our kind admirably, half-whelp. Yeessss… Yet you know nothing of true power. The mortal blood that flows through your veins makes you but an insignificant worm compared to me. Hi ni vahzah dovah. Zu'u zok sahrot dovah!”
Shyvana seemed to be attempting to hiss some insult back at Plagueis, yet she could not manage any words so badly beaten. A second later, Shyvana shrieked briefly as Plagueis’ jaws snapped shut around her neck. With delight, Plagueis heard a sickening crack as he sharply twisted his foe’s neck in his teeth.
As Plagueis released Shyvana, her body lay limp on the ground as she vanished in blue light.
A moment later, Plagueis raised his blood-stained maw to the sky and roared his victory. The battle cry resonated throughout Summoner’s Rift, a dreaded call for the dragon’s enemies.
As Plagueis relished in his success, he heard the faint steps of another approaching figure. Yet he could sense this one – an ally, of sorts. He did not need to turn to see Morgana, the Fallen Angel, approaching him.
“An impressive display, Destroyer,” said Morgana.
“Ah… the Fallen Angel,” Plagueis said almost dismissively. “Might I ask why you are not with the Butcher and the Nightmare destroying the enemy’s base?”
“You would presume to order me, dragon?” Morgana retorted.
A second later, she quickly regretted her words as a decaying claw swung around and grasped her in its clutches. Morgana gasped for air as the dragon’s hand tightened, lifting her off the ground.
“I do not presume! No!” Watching as Morgana struggled to breathe, Plagueis added, “It seems I must remind you that not even the Summoners themselves hold sway over me, even in their so-called Fields of Justice! Yes!”
After a moment of gathering what breath she had left, Morgana said, “R-Renekton and Nocturne… have it under control!”
Just then, Plagueis heard the loud shattering sound of the Blue Team’s Nexus breaking apart. The battle was over. The Purple Team was victorious.
“So they do,” Plagueis said, releasing his grip on Morgana. The Fallen Angel fell to the ground, gasping for air.
As Morgana lay at his feet, Plagueis roared to the sky, “Victory, once again, is MINE!!!” This cry was followed by the dragon’s tyrannical laughter.
And watching the end of the battle through a crystal, Vessaria cursed under her breath.
Once again, the Dragon of Desolation had emerged undefeated.
Chapter 4 - Situation
The Council Chambers of the Institute of War faintly echoed with murmurs and whispers. The room itself was very dimly lit, and lacked in the way of decoration. Marble lined the floors, walls, and various podiums that the Councilors sat behind in chairs of fine leather and oak.
Leona sat next to Lux in the center of the chamber, the two of them wondering what all the whispers and voices were talking about. Lux, having worked as a spy before her entry into the League, was able to pick up a few of the things the Councilors were saying, but Leona could only hear a few choice words, none of which added up to anything.
Her eyes briefly turned to the robed, skeletal individual who stood, or rather floated, bound inside a magical dome-like enclosure meant to seal away the magic of whoever was within it. Karthus, the Deathsinger, was apparently of importance to the meeting. His presence only increased Leona’s suspicion and worry as to what the meeting’s subject was.
She also took a short glimpse at another fellow Champion in the Council Chamber, a Yordle of great renown and greater intelligence: Professor Heimerdinger. She could only guess why the Yordle was part of the meeting.
The bang of a gavel resounded through the chamber, bringing the murmurs silent. Leona looked up to the central podium, where High Councilor Vessaria Kolminye stood.
“Everyone, settle down,” said Vessaria. “The Council is in session. Summoner Montrose, you may begin your briefing.”
“Thank you, High Councilor,” said Montrose, who stood below next to a large glass sphere, much like a seer’s crystal but far larger. It was often used for displaying larger images to the Summoners.
Montrose swept a hand over the crystal, which began to swirl with colors as he spoke.
“Paladin Leona, Luxanna Crownguard, you have been called before the Council due to a matter of dire importance. To start, I wish to bring everyone in this room up to speed on the events that have led us here.”
The Councilors watched as the crystal displayed a series of images, including an image of members of the Adjudicators’ Investigations division, one of Death’s Spire, and one of Karthus performing some kind of magical ritual.
“Two months ago, the Institute of War received disturbing news that Karthus, the Deathsinger, had led an expedition to the Ironspike Mountains. Specifically, his goal was the mountain known as Death’s Spire, the final resting place of the infamous Dragon of Desolation, known to us as Plagueis the Vile.”
Leona’s eyes narrowed. So this meeting was about Plagueis, she thought. Even though she knew most of the details Montrose was describing, Lux apparently didn’t. Either way, hearing all of the details would bring everyone else in the room up to speed.
“Through an analysis of his recent activities at the Institute, the Adjudicators’ Investigation division uncovered evidence that Karthus had been obtaining a large amount of research material pertaining to the Dragon of Desolation, along with a large amount of magical references to necromancy-based works. He had also been using resources from the Institute to obtain various magical items necessary for a powerful necromantic ritual. From this evidence, it was deduced that Karthus intended to resurrect the dragon and enthrall it to his will.”
“How very astute of you, Summoner Montrose…” Karthus interrupted at that moment, seemingly in a satisfied tone. When Montrose turned to him, Karthus added, “Do continue…”
After a short pause, Montrose continued the briefing.
“A force of our Summoners and Adjudicators, accompanied by Paladin Leona, arrived at Death’s Spire via a mass teleportation spell to find Karthus at the zenith of his ritual. While our force succeeded in arresting Karthus and his followers, we were unsuccessful in preventing the ritual from resurrecting Plagueis.”
As she listened, Leona recalled the event quite vividly in her mind.
Black magic stirred violently in the vast cave as the League’s Adjudicators struggled to arrest Karthus’ followers. Leona stood in the middle of the cave, staring with dread at a mass of rising black dragon bones. Two of the lich’s acolytes had been killed, refusing to surrender, while the rest were being quickly rounded up. The lich himself floated in the grasp of two Adjudicator Elites at the head of the ritual circle.
“Fools!” shouted Karthus as he struggled. “The dragon rises, and I must act quickly if I am to subjugate him!”
The Adjudicator Elites refused to listen to Karthus’ demands, intent on keeping him restrained. A moment later, the lich shouted as vile spirits surged around him, their energies blowing his captors back and sending them to the ground.
“Karthus!” Leona shouted as she spun around, readying her blade and shield as she charged toward the lich from the center of the cave.
The lich swung his staff at the paladin, creating a wall of dark magic in her path, too close for her to avoid. Passing through the wall, Leona stumbled and fell to her knee, drained by the energies of undeath. She struggled to stand, trying to shake off the lich’s magic.
Karthus turned back to his ritual, raising his staff and bony fingers to the skeletal form of the dark dragon. The lich began to speak in the tongues of necromancy, uttering words of death as his magic enveloped the dragon. Rotting flesh and black scales were beginning to return to the dragon’s body, creating a skin of decay. The dragon’s body began to seep of a dark, venomous mist. His golden eyes began to glow.
An ear-splitting roar resounded through Death’s Spire as Plagueis the Vile rose from death and spread his wings. All around him, Summoners and Adjudicators fell to their knees in terror at the sound of his voice.
“I live…! Yeessss…! I LIVE!!!” Plagueis’ words were followed by tyrannical laughter.
“Indeed, you live, Destroyer,” said Karthus. “You live because I have made it so. And you live to serve me!”
Bolts of psionic magic surged from the lich’s hand, tethering to the dragon’s skull. Plagueis roared in anger, snapping his gaze to the lich.
“Serve!? Serve you!? I serve no one, lich! No!”
Karthus was astounded. How was he resisting the spell?
“You will obey me, dragon!” Karthus hissed loudly. “I am your master! I gave you new life! I have given you a new purpose!! You will KNEEL to me!!!”
Still, the dragon roared in fury, and writhed violently. On the ground, Leona watched in horror as Karthus struggled to try and enthrall the dragon. Deep down, she knew the dragon would not be controlled.
Suddenly, Karthus yelled as the tethers of magic broke, overloaded seemingly by the dragon. Hissing furiously, the lich turned back at Plagueis, and suddenly his anger was replaced by dismay as flames built in the dragon’s maw.
“Plagueis does not kneel. HE CONQUERS!!!”
With a roar, Plagueis breathed flames of darkness at the lich. In his shock, Karthus barely was able to raise a wall of bones before him, yet the defense only barely held back the dragon’s fire. The wall exploded, sending Karthus flying back with a yell.
Leona could not see if Karthus had been killed by the blast, but had no time to think about it. As she stood, she felt a cold chill as one of the dragon’s golden eyes turned its piercing stare her way. It saw her armor, golden and glowing brightly. It saw her shield and sword.
Plagueis recognized the weapon and shield immediately.
Snarling furiously, Plagueis bellowed, “Solari hero! Nahkriin fen kos dii! YEESSSS!!!”
Leona quickly raised the holy shield as Plagueis turned to her and his mouth released a torrent of dark flames. Sunlight bathed Leona as her shield opened, its protective magic creating an aura of light around her. She braced as the flames washed over her, devoting all her strength to keeping her footing. The pressure from the dragon was intense; Leona didn’t know how long she would be able to hold off the attack.
The flames stopped, and in a flash the dragon’s fangs rushed at Leona, prepared to crush her. With skill born of her Rakkorian roots, Leona made a single powerful slash of her blade, cutting the dragon’s mouth. Plagueis roared in pain as he reeled back, the sunlight burning his decaying flesh. Yet as quickly as Leona had cut through the dragon’s hide, she watched as the dragon’s flesh began to regenerate. The ritual’s magic was still crackling within the lair, and Plagueis’ rotting flesh continued to grow over his bones.
Plagueis angrily looked back down at his foe. It was at that moment, however, that he saw that he was not facing his old slayer, as he had mistakenly believed. Before him stood a woman, her hair long and amber, and her skin radiant as the dawn. She stood as strong as she was beautiful, grasping the sacred blade and shield tightly.
“You are not the Solari hero! No!” Plagueis growled. “What sorcery is this!?”
“I am Solari, monster!” Leona shouted. “I am the morning light, come to banish the darkness!”
A moment passed, and then Plagueis broke into laughter. “You believe you can defeat ME, wretch? Mey joor! You may wield the relics of the haal, Champion, who defeated me, but you are nothing compared to him! NO!”
Plagueis’ mouth flickered with dark fire again, and again Leona readied her shield. But as the dragon prepared to attack, he reeled as magical chains struck his neck, pulling at him and sending his flames off course. Shocked, Leona turned to see the Summoners and Adjudicators, several who released more chains of magic to try and bind the dragon.
“Hold him down!” shouted Montrose. “Leona, now’s your chance!”
Leona nodded briefly. This was possibly her best chance of destroying Plagueis. She sheathed her sword in the shield, combining the two relics. The artifacts began to burn brighter and brighter as she concentrated all of her power into them. Soon the light they emitted began to light the whole cavern, blinding in its intensity like the sun itself.
With a shout, Leona unleashed a ray of light from the relics, engulfing Plagueis in sunlight. The dragon roared in agony and fury as his flesh and scales burned.
But to Leona’s dismay, Plagueis would not die.
“Zu'u unslaad! Zu'u nis oblaan!”
Plagueis’ flames surged forth, challenging the power Leona unleashed. The two seemed equally matched, but from his position, Summoner Montrose could tell that Leona would not outlast the dragon’s wrath. Something drastic would have to be done.
Turning to two other Summoners, Montrose said, “Vylon, Sandra, help me trap the dragon in a barrier matrix!”
“What!?” said Summoner Vylon. “We–”
“Just do it!” Montrose interrupted abruptly. “She can’t hold him off forever!”
Immediately complying with the order, Vylon and Sandra turned to spread the plan to as many of the other Summoners as they could. Montrose raised his arms as he stood at the perimeter of the cave. He was soon joined by a majority of the other Summoners, all casting the barrier spell in unison.
Leona strained under the pressure of her attack as it clashed with Plagueis’ fire. Her body felt numb and weak; sound began to distort; her vision blurred. She knew she was at her limit.
Blue light suddenly began to encase the dragon in a dome of magic, who roared as he was trapped inside. Furiously he directed his breath at the dome, which rippled as the flames struck it. The Summoners were straining to keep the barrier from breaking. Plagueis writhed in his restraints, furiously trying to break free of the chains that bound him.
Leona staggered as the light faded from her shield and sword. The relics clattered to the ground as she fell to her knees. She heard her name cried out as she fell forward.
And everything went black.
The sound of Vessaria’s voice snapped Leona out of her memory.
“Thank you, Summoner Montrose,” said Vessaria. Then, she turned to Leona as she said, “That information, I’m sure, is already known to you, Paladin Leona. Yet much has occurred over the past two months. After you lost consciousness, the Institute sent a large contingent of Summoners to reinforce your group and assist in containing the Dragon of Desolation. We were able to use an array of Nexus crystals to create a self-sustaining barrier matrix, which the dragon is presently trapped in. Unfortunately, that has only bought us some time.”
“You mean–” Leona started, but stopped as a squeaky voice interrupted her.
“Indeed,” said Heimerdinger. The Yordle hopped up next to the display crystal as it changed to an image of the barrier matrix, with Plagueis in the center. He brought up a small wooden pointer as he spoke.
“As you can plainly see here, the Nexus crystals that compose the primary resonation points of the barrier matrix are showing a gradual, but steadily increasing rate of decay. The Dragon of Desolation continues to recover his full strength while he dwells in his prison, and as he is growing in strength, the rate at which the barrier decays is steadily accelerating as well.”
“What?” gasped Lux. “You can’t be–”
“Please, Miss Crownguard, do not interrupt me,” Heimerdinger snapped curtly. As Lux’s cheeks puffed in annoyance, the Yordle continued, “According to my calculations, given the present rate of decay and the rate at which said decay is increasing… the Dragon of Desolation will be able to break free of his imprisonment within ten days time. That is, give or take a day or two, depending on how much effort he expends.”
This came to the alarm of the Council, as well as to Leona and Lux. To Leona, the thought of Plagueis escaping into Valoran was unimaginable. The sheer destruction that would emerge would rival the devastation wrought by the Rune Wars.
At that moment, Lux then asked, “Wait, Professor, you said ‘depending on how much effort he expends’. What do you mean by that?”
“I will answer that, Professor Heimerdinger,” said Vessaria, who was met by a nod from the Yordle. “What he means is that if Plagueis were to focus his efforts on consolidating his power, his escape could come much sooner. So far we have been able to keep him distracted from that effort, but it has only been so successful in buying time.”
It was at this that Leona suddenly felt a terrible dread. She asked, “How have you been keeping him distracted?”
Vessaria took a deep breath as she shut her eyes, and answered, “By making him a Champion in the League of Legends.”
Leona’s eyes shot wide open.
Chapter 5 - Decision
“A Champion!?” Leona exclaimed, bolting to her feet. “What possessed you to do something so reckless!?”
All eyes in the Council Chamber turned to Leona, some out of shock, others out of apprehension. A few turned to her as a result of both.
“Calm yourself, Paladin Leona,” Vessaria said commandingly.
Leona’s face was written with righteous indignation, but after a moment she relented and sat back down. Next to her, Lux looked at Leona with concern.
“The decision to make Plagueis a Champion was not made lightly,” Vessaria continued. “It was made, primarily, for two important reasons. The first, which we have already noted, was to keep the dragon distracted from his efforts to free himself. So far, that has at least slowed his progress. The second reason was that, through the League, we hoped that we would be able to find alternative means of neutralizing Plagueis, or at the very least inhibiting his power. However, our assumptions did not go as we had intended.”
Briefly sweeping her hand forward, Vessaria’s magic turned the colors of the crystal, changing its image to moving pictures. Summoner’s Rift came into focus, showing a team consisting of Alistar, Master Yi, Morgana, Kassadin and Vayne all engaged in a five-against-one clash against Plagueis. To the disturbance of those in the Council Chamber, the dragon was clearly winning, quickly dispatching Master Yi with a slash of his massive claws before breathing a wave of fire over Alistar, sending the minotaur to his knees.
“This is a record of one of Plagueis’ first matches in the League of Legends,” said Vessaria. “As many of you know, this has become a sort of standard for any matches in which Plagueis has been a participant. In nearly forty matches now over the past two months, Plagueis the Vile has gone without a single loss, and so far no combination of Champions has even been able to slay him, even in odds such as this.”
Leona could barely believe what she heard as she watched Plagueis swat Vayne aside with his tail, sending her fatally into a wall. Plagueis followed up the kill by breathing dark fire at Kassadin, who barely avoided the attack with his Riftwalk. Kassadin came out of his warp injured, and it only took a moment for Plagueis to catch back up to the Void Walker and incinerate him, despite being struck by a rippling wave of Void energies.
The crystal then shifted to images of more battles, each with Plagueis against at least three or more Champions at a time. In one she saw Jax making impressive blows against the dragon with a heavy steel warhammer, only to be struck aside as Plagueis backhanded him. In the same movement, Plagueis’ mouth released a wave of fire that quickly engulfed Ezreal and Annie.
Another battle came into focus; Plagueis was hot in pursuit of Corki as the Yordle desperately tried to shake off the dragon, his gyrocopter’s engine on fire. The dragon was too fast, though, and merely smashed through the machine and its occupant as he made a beeline for Anivia and Janna, who sent powerful icy winds at the dragon in a combined attack. Though Plagueis showed signs of slowing to the blizzard, he still sent a blast of dark fire to strike down the Cryophoenix and Storm’s Fury, sending them falling to the ground gracelessly.
A third battle was displayed; this time it was on the Proving Grounds, and Plagueis was in a three-on-one battle against the Kinkou ninjas, Shen, Kennen and Akali. Each seemed to move in poetic tandem, their synchrony flawless and their assault relentless. But the dragon would not yield, crushing Kennen first in his fangs before finishing off the other two ninjas, despite how valiantly they fought.
The battles continued to flash before Leona’s eyes, each a palpable display of Plagueis’ prowess and cruelty. Even against some of the mightiest Champions of the League, even against odds that would have overwhelmed any other, Plagueis crushed any opposition before him.
“Not a single loss?” Leona gasped in horror, unable to believe what she saw.
Montrose, realizing that seeing such one-sided devastation was proving too much for the audience, swept a hand over the crystal, dispelling the images. The crystal became transparent again as all color within it vanished.
“I’m afraid so, Paladin Leona,” said Montrose. “We think a few may have come close, but so far no Champion has been able to slay Plagueis. We have, as such, kept him confined to Summoner’s Rift and only allowed him in exhibition matches, except for that three-on-one at the Proving Grounds.”
“Excuse me, Councilors,” said Lux, “but why can’t you Summoners just weaken the dragon’s power on the Fields of Justice?”
A moment of uneasy silence passed. Lux’s expression suddenly became concerned.
“That is within your power, right?” she asked.
With a sigh, Vessaria answered, “I wish it were, but Plagueis is… formidable in many ways, not just in his power in battle.”
“What do you mean?” asked Leona.
“What I mean is that, so far, no Summoner has been able to control Plagueis through a Summoner’s link. No doubt you are aware that, sometimes, the link between Champion and Summoner can be temporarily broken, and the Champion’s own will takes over. It’s quite a frequent case with Nocturne and Renekton, but each time we have been able to subdue them through the link. However, in Plagueis’ case, all attempts to subjugate his mind, even with multiple Summoners, have failed.”
Sweeping his hand over the crystal again, bringing up new images of the hospital wing of the institute, Montrose said, “A few of our Summoners have tried more… risky methods in attempting to link with the dragon. As you can see here, none of them have found success.”
The images in the crystal showed several Summoners in beds, clearly suffering from some mental trauma. Some screamed incoherently, some appeared completely brain-dead and merely drooled mindlessly, while a few others twitched and spoke in tongues. It was almost comparable to the madness Nocturne had brought forth before being trapped by the League.
“But if no one is controlling him, how is he able to keep manifesting himself on the Fields of Justice?” asked Lux.
“A good question, Lady of Luminosity,” said Montrose. Then, turning to Vessaria, he asked, “High Councilor, if I may.”
“Go ahead,” Vessaria answered.
As the images in the crystal vanished again, Montrose began.
“We believe that the Dragon of Desolation is knowledgeable, and perhaps even highly experienced, with our Summoning magic. He knows of its complexities, how to use it, and likely how to counter it. While the Summoning process allows him to manifest himself, he should not be able to control his avatar if the Summoner’s link is disrupted, at least not in the ways shown. We believe, however, that he knows of a way to control his avatar with his own power, even from within his prison. His avatar cannot leave the Fields of Justice, of course, but he is in complete control of it, as if he himself were a Summoner. This is also the likely reason as to why we have not been able to restrict his power.”
“I see…” said Lux. “But from what I’ve heard, in each match he’s been in, Plagueis always spends the first thirty minutes of a match in his team’s base. How is he able to become so powerful like that, when anyone else would be extremely weak?”
“We believe that he is fueling power to his avatar via his own link to it, allowing it to build up strength without needing to use the standard methods. We suspect it takes time, but he has been shown to fight prematurely if his opponents quickly reach his base, and still shows great power.”
Vessaria then said, “In light of this, we made special arrangements for summoning Plagueis to the Fields of Justice to avoid endangering any more Summoners. A special Nexus crystal is being utilized for each match that Plagueis seems to use as a conduit between himself and his avatar, allowing him complete control over it.”
Leona was having trouble believing all she was hearing. How could Plagueis be so powerful as even to defeat and control the link between Summoner and Champion? Leona wasn’t very knowledgeable about magic, but even she knew it was near-impossible to overpower a Summoner in such a link.
“Surely there has to be something you can do?” said Leona with worry.
Vessaria sighed. “I’m afraid our options are becoming limited. Reports from Death’s Spire have shown Plagueis is becoming quite restless. Rather, we think he is becoming… bored of the League. This is something we hoped to avoid, as he may well turn his attention back to consolidating his power. It has become increasingly difficult to convince the dragon to fight in matches. I was hoping his last match against Shyvana would be more successful, but he proved far too strong for the half-dragon.”
Vessaria sighed again as she rubbed her eyes with one hand. Telling so much bad news wasn’t something she liked, but it had to be said.
“Right now the majority of our efforts are in trying to find ways to either weaken the Dragon of Desolation to a point where we can keep him under control, or making improvements to the barrier matrix that imprisons him. I believe Summoner Verge had something he wished to say about his research on the latter manner.”
“Thank you, High Councilor,” said a male Summoner. He was lean and elderly, but still showed a kind of sharpness in his eyes and gaunt face.
Standing from his chair, Research Summoner Verge said, “My department has made a rather interesting development on the issue of the Dragon of Desolation’s prison. We have made a prototype of a new light-based matrix that we believe would not only be able to imprison the dragon more strongly, but could also continually weaken him in his prison. If we were to implement it, we may be able to imprison him for years, if not decades.”
“What? Then why don’t you use that already?” asked Lux.
“It’s not that simple. To implement this new barrier matrix, we would need to lower the present one for an extensive period of time. Doing so would easily allow the dragon to escape, and our efforts would be for nothing.”
“We think that in order for this to work, we would need to significantly weaken Plagueis, to such a point that we could restrain him while implementing the improvements,” said Montrose. “Unfortunately, that would mean fighting the dragon in person, and that could prove disastrous.”
Then, as he scratched his head, Heimerdinger said, “Hmm… High Councilor, if I may make a suggestion?”
“What is it, Professor?” asked Vessaria.
“I believe that the aforementioned link between the dragon and his avatar may be the solution we are looking for. I hypothesize that controlling such a potent avatar must require a direct connection to the dragon’s own power. If his avatar were significantly damaged, or perhaps even destroyed, it could cause a sort of feedback effect that may cause harm to the dragon.”
“You mean to say that if someone could succeed in killing Plagueis on the Fields of Justice,” asked Montrose, “it might give us the window we need to implement the improvements to the barrier?”
“Indeed. However, I cannot be 100% certain of this. It is merely a hypothesis.”
“It is a sound theory, Professor,” said Vessaria. “However, I don’t think we would be able to exploit such a possibility. If that were true, Plagueis could simply sever the link to his avatar if it were in danger of being destroyed. That would prevent such a feedback effect from occurring. Also, there is the matter of even getting Plagueis to fight in another match.”
The Council was soon engulfed in murmurs. Some felt the plan was a good one, but many others had more than a few reservations about it. It was clear they were not about to come to an agreement over it.
It was at this moment that Leona stood.
“Then I will face him.”
All eyes in the room suddenly turned toward her. The murmurs suddenly became a great deal louder, the voices turning to deep concern and confusion.
“High Councilor,” Leona said bravely. “Let the Dragon of Desolation know that I challenge him to battle! I will face him on the Fields of Justice, and I will slay him!”
For a moment, Vessaria said nothing, staring incredulously at Leona. Next to the paladin, Lux looked up at Leona with a mixture of pride and concern.
Then, Vessaria said, “That, Paladin Leona, was something I was hoping to avoid.”
“Plagueis has been demanding to face you as of late. Yet I am of the concern that if he were to face you, and if he were to defeat you, it would only embolden him to breaking free of his prison. He would know he could destroy you.”
“But you said it yourself: he demands to face me, and you cannot convince him otherwise to fight in the League. How would he be able to resist facing me?”
Vessaria couldn’t find anything to say. She knew Leona wasn’t going to back down from this.
Continuing, Leona said, “And my power may be the one thing that can defeat him. You saw it yourself, Summoner Montrose. The light I used against him - he is weak to it!”
Montrose nodded, remembering how Leona’s power had harmed Plagueis during his revival. She had a valid point.
“Time is of the essence, is it not? Can any of you Summoners suggest another course of action? No? Then I will face him, whether on Summoner’s Rift or in his very lair!”
“Leona!” Lux gasped, surprised to see such determination in her friend.
As the Council’s murmurs continued, shocked at what Leona had said, Vessaria sighed and replied, “Very well, Paladin Leona. We will make the arrangements. In one week’s time, we will hold a special exhibition match on Summoner’s Rift. In the meantime, Summoner Verge and his research staff will begin preparing this new barrier matrix.”
“Thank you, High Councilor,” said Leona. “I will not fail. I promise you.”
“You’ve got that right!” Lux said suddenly, to Leona’s surprise. “High Councilor, I wish to take a place on Leona’s team in her upcoming match against Plagueis!”
“W-What!?” Leona gasped, dumbstruck by Lux’s proclamation.
“Very well, Luxanna Crownguard,” said Vessaria. “You will be aiding Paladin Leona in her task to defeat the Dragon of Desolation, one week from now. I will notify you both of your other teammates and of your opponents in the upcoming battle.” Banging her gavel, Vessaria declared, “This session is adjourned.”
Leona didn’t even notice as the Summoners and Councilors got their things together. She was only focused on Lux. The paladin’s face was stricken with disbelief.
Noticing, Lux asked, “What?”
The Councilors walked in a mass of cloaks and papers as they left the Council Chambers. None turned to see Leona now beginning to argue with Lux.
Yet in the crowd, obscured by illusion, Leblanc the Deceiver watched as the Lady of Luminosity and the Radiant Dawn began to object to one another. None noticed her, nor the devious smile across her face.
“Well now… How interesting…” Leblanc cooed.
Without even a whisper, the Deceiver vanished.
Chapter 6 - Compassion
A series of plucking strings and otherworldly notes set the tone in the ballroom of the Institute of War. Though the floor was dimly lit, the stage was bright as all eyes gazed upon the Maven of the Strings as she played her sonata. Sona’s eyes were shut as her fingers moved instinctively across her etwahl, never missing a note as violins and violas joined her in concert.
Seated at a table in the back, Lux regretted how, at the moment, she wasn’t able to enjoy the music. Across from her, Leona sat with a look that mixed severity and worry.
After a moment of awkward silence between the two, Lux groaned as she said, “Why are you so against this? I want to help you beat him, so why are you turning me away, Leo?”
“Lux, you have no idea what Plagueis is capable of. You’ve never faced him on the Fields of Justice, and for that I am grateful. I don’t want you to experience such a horror.”
“Oh come on, Leona. It’s a League match; no one ever really dies in those.”
“That’s not the point!”
“And I’ve been studying all the records of Plagueis’ matches for the past few days. Leona, I know what he’s capable of, and I–”
Nearly shouting as she rose up and slammed her hands on the table, Leona said, “No, you don’t! You weren’t there when that monster was brought back to life in Death’s Spire! You’ve not felt the full force of his hatred, even while his power is constrained in his prison! You–”
Leona stopped as she suddenly realized just how loud she was. She turned to see that the audience had turned its attention to her, displeased stares across their faces. The room was silent; Leona looked up to see Sona had stopped playing, giving the paladin a stern glare. She played a few unpleasant notes, clearly asking that Leona not interrupt her.
“Ah… I… I apologize, Miss Buvelle…” Leona said gloomily. Then, striding away from her seat, she said shakily to Lux, “I-I need to clear my head.”
As Leona left the room, the mood in the ballroom seemed to turn somber. Sona’s fingers returned to her etwahl, but they had abandoned the more joyous tune she had been playing earlier. Her new song was now one of solemnity and mystery, as if she too were as confused as Lux was.
Lux couldn’t understand it. Why was Leona being like this?
Apprentice Brelyna couldn’t help but be nervous whenever she walked down the caverns of Death’s Spire. The inexperienced Summoner, who had been assigned as a liaison for the League to the Dragon of Desolation, took slow, shaky steps as she approached the dragon’s lair.
It wasn’t just the enclosed tunnels, barely lit by small glowing crystals, which made her uneasy. The black trails of smoke that wafted through the air, making it difficult to breathe, deepened the claustrophobia, despite the protection Brelyna had been given for her lungs – a small charm that would protect its wearer from various poisons and airborne toxins. She wouldn’t be poisoned, at least, but that barely helped things. No, the miasma was hardly the worst of it.
It was the sheer pressure. Despite not even being near him yet, Brelyna could feel the power that radiated from the undead dragon, even within the barrier. It made her every step feel like a hundred, every breath she made labored. It was unlike anything else she had felt in her life.
And yet she was rapt by the sensation. The fear, the malice, the power… it was incredible. Of course, she was afraid, but at the same time was enthralled by a strange admiration as she took her steps.
At last, she saw the blue glow of the barrier matrix, even through the miasma that choked the air of Death’s Spire. And within, she once again laid her eyes on the being she could not help but revere.
He could feel her presence. Her fear was palpable, but her mind rapt with worship. Yeessss…
Plagueis raised his head as he turned his gaze to the young apprentice Summoner. Bereft of a hood, Brelyna’s youthful face made it obvious that she had to be somewhere in her early-twenties, if even that. Her brown hair was tied in braids on each side of her head, both hanging in front of her ears. Her blue eyes were behind a round pair of glasses, which did little to make her attractive. She gave off the image of a scholar or librarian more than that of a Summoner.
“Ah, the Apprentice,” Plagueis said dismissively. “Come to implore my presence in another disappointing battle on the Fields of Justice?”
“Y-Yes, my lord Plagueis,” answered Brelyna, her voice a high pitch, her stammering betraying her fear.
Plagueis simply scoffed at this. Another day against such weaklings the League called ‘Champions’…
With a short ‘gulp’, Brelyna said, “My superiors, under the directive of High Councilor Kolminye, have asked me to inform you that in five days time, you are to be participating in an exhibition match on Summoner’s Rift. I-I am simply here to m-make sure th-that you…”
Brelyna stopped as Plagueis began to crawl on all fours toward her, his head lowered toward the ground so as to obtain the greatest slack from the magical chains binding him. Brelyna trembled as the dragon’s glowing golden eyes met her quivering blue ones.
“You may return to the sorceress Kolminye, Apprentice, and inform her that I have no interest in her ‘Fields of Justice’ any longer. No… She has done little besides dissatisfy me, and there is nothing more she could offer me that I cannot simply take.”
Brelyna stayed glued to the spot as Plagueis turned away from her. As the dragon returned to his former perch, Brelyna said, “B-But my lord, I-I was given v-very specific instructions to see that you–”
“Did I make myself unclear!?” Plagueis snapped, causing Brelyna to squeak in fright and accidentally knock her glasses off her nose. As she scrambled to replace them before her eyes, Plagueis added, “I have faced the so-called best that your League has been able to offer, and time and again I have cast them down! I have bested not only the League’s Champions, but their Summoners as well! None can match my power, and still that woman believes she can manipulate me!? Pahlok! Return to her, Apprentice, and inform her that my return to power is nigh, and that she will soon suffer my wrath when I am free from this cage! Yeessss!”
Straightening her glasses, Brelyna could now clearly see the anger that was beginning to boil within Plagueis, his mouth now flickering with neon fire as he snarled. She had seen the dragon’s anger before, and it had before sent her fleeing his presence screaming, but she had now the experience to hold her ground, if only for a little longer.
Despite the black air around her, Brelyna took a deep breath and said, “My lord, I must inform you that your opponents are being led by Leona, the Radiant Dawn.”
Plagueis’ golden eyes shot wide open. “What did you say?” the dragon snarled, slowly and with force behind each word.
Gathering what confidence she had left, Brelyna proclaimed, “Paladin Leona, the Radiant Dawn, has challenged you, Lord Plagueis the Destroyer, to battle on the Fields of Justice!”
Brelyna’s confidence suddenly vanished as Plagueis snarled eagerly, releasing dark fire from his mouth as he roared, more out of anticipation than any desire to kill. She shrieked as the flames struck the barrier matrix a few inches from her, sending her tripping back and falling to the floor on her rump. As she gingerly rubbed her behind, Brelyna felt the ground quake as Plagueis landed near her, the magical chains nearly at the end of their length.
As Brelyna trembled before him, Plagueis bellowed, “So, the Solari wretch has finally crawled from whatever gutter she has been cowering in! And she has dared to challenge my power?!” With another relished snarl, Plagueis continued, “I have awaited the chance to tear that upstart woman limb from agonizing limb for far too long. Yeessss…”
Brelyna was now in a nearly panicked state, scrambling back on her hands to try and distance herself from Plagueis. Yet she could clearly see the keen anticipation brewing in his gold eyes, something she hadn’t seen in a good while now. It was a rather disturbing visage for the dragon to take.
“The Radiant Dawn will rue the day she was ever born when I lay my vengeance upon her!” Standing on his hind legs as he spread his massive decaying wings, Plagueis roared, “I accept her challenge! I will enter battle with the Radiant Dawn on Summoner’s Rift, and her wretched life will end within my fangs! YEESSSS!!!”
As the dragon let forth an ear-splitting roar for battle, Brelyna shrieked again as she scrambled to her feet and fled the dragon’s presence.
Leona stopped in place as her eyes briefly shot open as a chill ran down her spine. She had no idea what had caused it, but it chilled her soul as much as it did her body.
Her defensive stance loosened ever so slightly. It was the mistake her sparring partner had been waiting for.
With a loud yell, Pantheon leapt forward at Leona, the paladin realizing her error too late. The Aegis of Zeonia lashed out, sending Leona’s holy blade from her grip before striking her midsection. Leona yelped as she tripped backwards, falling to the floor of the training grounds. The Artisan of War’s spear was at Leona’s throat before she could move.
As his weapon hovered perilously before Leona’s neck, Pantheon said irritably, “Such a sloppy stance, Solari. Were this a true battle, you would be dead by now.”
“I… I’m sorry…” said Leona, returning to her feet as Pantheon stepped back from her, the two reassuming their combat stances.
“You allowed yourself to be distracted. Do you expect to defeat a foe as mighty as the Dragon of Desolation…”
Pantheon suddenly jumped toward Leona, so she prepared to block his shield. At the last second, however, Leona realized Pantheon’s feint, and barely deflected a thrust of his spear with her blade.
“…when so unfocused!?” Pantheon shouted, swinging his spear sideways to strike Leona’s sword arm, bludgeoning it rather than cutting. Leona grimaced from this hit, but quickly recovered, blocking a slashing swing from the spear with her shield.
“What do you mean?” Leona asked quite icily. Pantheon had been testy with her that day, and she knew he meant something by it.
“I speak of you and the Lady of Luminosity. Your concern for the girl has made you weak!” Pantheon’s spear clashed with Leona’s shield as he said, “You believe she is not meant to face the dragon as you are meant to!”
Pushing hard, Leona thrust forward, throwing Pantheon back. Reassuming a defense, Leona said, “She isn’t, Pantheon! She doesn’t know what it’s like fighting Plagueis! You’ve faced him in battle; you know how it would affect her! He’s not like other Champions!”
Pantheon’s eyes narrowed with anger. True, he had faced Plagueis on the Fields of Justice, and he had lost. Leona, however, seemed to know that battles against Plagueis normally had an aftereffect on the Champions and Summoners involved. It varied between the Champions and Summoners alike, but generally the victims were left scarred by the experience, something that normally did not happen after League matches. Many of the Champions were able to cope with this, but a few came to fear the dragon’s brutality.
Pantheon, however, was not one to fear Plagueis.
“You believe I was somehow weakened by my defeat at the dragon’s hand?” Pantheon asked harshly. “I am not so feeble as to be broken by one loss against a powerful opponent! Rather, I would gladly face him again in battle were I given the chance!”
“You live for war, Pantheon! It’s all you think of!” said Leona. “But Lux isn’t like that. She’s pure, virtuous, and kind. Plagueis will prey upon her for that! It’s my duty– no, my responsibility, to face Plagueis, not hers!”
Pantheon charged toward Leona as she readied her blade. To her surprise, Pantheon leapt up and hurled his spear at her, slicing her right cheek as it sailed past. Caught off guard, Leona yelped as Pantheon’s aegis smashed her head, sending her falling to the ground in a short spin. Her sword and shield flew from her hands. The taste of blood filled Leona’s mouth.
Grasping his spear, Pantheon said, “You still think it is your duty to protect everyone, don’t you? That you and you alone hold power upon who lives and who dies!? How naïve. Did you learn nothing from the Rite of Kor? Or are you planning to repeat with the Crownguard girl what happened to everyone else who died that day?”
Leona’s eyes shot open, and then narrowed with anger. Pantheon had gone too far, bringing back such horrible history. She had lost so many friends that day, and Pantheon spoke so callously of their sacrifice?
“If that is so, then I will need to give you a much more painful reminder, Leona!” Pantheon shouted, raising his spear for the finishing blow.
“SHUT UP!!!” Leona yelled as she swung a fist to Pantheon’s head, the blow causing Pantheon’s head to ring like a gong.
A second fist from Leona connected with Pantheon, along with several more blows before Pantheon attempted to counter her strikes. Yet her assault was relentless; any of her usual desire to simply fight in defense had seemingly vanished, replaced by a righteous fury born from the burning power of the sun within her.
A final blow sent Pantheon to the ground, his helmet given a large dent by Leona’s last punch. Leona stood before Pantheon, her breaths long and heavy. The gauntlets she wore were coated in Pantheon’s blood, with spattered amounts across the rest of her golden armor.
As Pantheon looked up at Leona with a groan of pain, Leona said angrily, yet calmly, “I’ll not let you speak so cruelly of the friends I lost that day. And I will NOT let Plagueis hurt Lux. I swear that on my life.”
Pantheon said nothing as Leona turned away from him, reclaiming her sword and shield before leaving the training grounds. One of the nearby League healers ran up beside the paladin to tend to her wounds, yet Leona paid the cleric no heed.
“Still you refuse to accept your limits, Leona…” Pantheon scoffed.
In more ways than one, Lux was hot underneath her skin, and not just from her feelings about Leona at the time. The hiss of water on burning coals and the quick clouds of steam that filled the air made her sweat terribly. But then again, she wouldn’t have come to the Institute’s bathhouse saunas if she didn’t want to be sweating.
Lux’s cheeks couldn’t help but be a slight shade of red at the moment, partly from the steam, but also due to her only having a white towel covering her otherwise nude body. It was a women-only sauna, but she was sharing it at the moment with two women she had her doubts over. Both also were covered by their towels out of surprising decency, something Lux hadn’t expected from the Nine-Tailed Fox or the Bestial Huntress.
Lying on her generously-sized chest, Nidalee purred as the steam washed over her body, enjoying the sensations of her every pore being cleansed. Even though she was used to getting dirt and grime all over her body, the jungle woman enjoyed a clean body as much as anyone else. The same could easily be said for Ahri, who sat to Lux’s right as she rubbed herself with a moisturizing tonic, which according to her made her skin as soft as a baby’s. Her many tails weren’t receiving quite the same treatment as her skin from all the steam, but Ahri always took care of such a detail after the fact.
Lux did her best not to stare. She couldn’t help but be a little jealous of her two counterparts’ perfectly-shaped bodies, especially their breasts. Lux was always small compared to many of the other League women, and it didn’t help that a lot of them chose to flaunt their cleavage in public, as well as on the Fields of Justice. Ahri was incorrigible when it came to the subject, often teasing male and female opponents alike with her ample chest and flawless curves. The whole thing made Lux feel inadequate by comparison at times.
“Something on your mind, little Luxy?” said Nidalee, slightly startling the blonde.
“Wh-What? Oh, no, nothing! Nothing at all, Nidalee!” Lux answered quickly, and highly unconvincingly.
“Hmm-mmm, that doesn’t sound like ‘nothing’ to me,” Ahri said playfully. “Oh, don’t make that face; you’ll get wrinkles.”
After a quick groan, Lux sighed and said, “It’s Leona. I want to help her in her upcoming match, but she keeps telling me to stay out of it. I keep telling her she needs all the help she can get, but she won’t listen.”
“Ooh, that doesn’t sound like our sunny Leo, now does it?” Ahri said with a giggle.
“I dunno why she’s being so difficult about this! I can handle myself in a fight; she knows that! She’s never turned down my help before when it comes to a League match, so why now?”
“Hmm… Maybe it has something to do with how you’re so much smaller than she is, Lux~♥” said Ahri, her voice taking a singsong tone.
“What do you– KYAA?!”
Lux gasped loudly as, without warning, she found Ahri’s hands were now wrapped around her still-covered breasts, playfully rubbing them through her towel.
“Ahri, wh-what are you doing!? EEK!” Lux made a short yelp as Ahri pinched her.
“Mmm… Me~owww…” Nidalee purred, enjoying the sight.
With a playful giggle, Ahri said, “I have to say it: Leona’s got a nice body, but I think you’re so much cuter than she is, Lux.”
“Ah-Ahri, stop it!” Lux squeaked, trying to squirm away from the fox as she groped her. The fox ignored her pleas, continuing to run her hands over Lux’s body in a seductive manner.
“Oh, you look so adorable when you’re blushing!”
Lux couldn’t even protest coherently at this point, reduced to flustered stammers and squeaking. Her cheeks had turned a bright red, both from the caresses Ahri was giving her and the suggestive looks Nidalee was now sending her way. Ahri’s many tails were now brushing over Lux’s arms and legs, adding to the sensuality of the moment.
Lux suddenly felt Ahri reach for her legs. Shrieking, she struck the fox with an elbow and pulled away from Ahri, covering herself with her arms as she fixed the position of her towel.
“Knock it off, Ahri!” Lux snapped, her cheeks burning from shame.
“Aww, I was just teasing, Lux~♥” Ahri said dejectedly, batting her eyelashes at the blonde.
Groaning, Lux added, “You’re as bad as Leo is right now. Neither of you are taking me seriously.”
“She just cares about you, Luxy,” said Nidalee. “She’s like a lioness looking out for her cubs. They look after their young even once they’re of age to start hunting so they won’t run into trouble. Leona’s probably just worried that you’ll get hurt fighting that monster, beyond just getting killed in a match.” Then, in a more serious tone, Nidalee added, “Just thinking about my last battle with him is putting my fur on end.”
“I know what you mean,” said Ahri. “I’m used to men staring all day at me, but that dragon's gaze just… made my skin crawl. And even though I’m used to the occasional losing match, losing to him just… just feels terrible.”
“I’m not worried about Plagueis defeating me,” said Lux. “I want to do my part and help Leona win. If I have to go down in that match to let Leona defeat Plagueis, then so be it!” With an enthusiastic fist-pump, Lux declared, “I won’t let Leona lose, no matter wha– GYAH!”
Again, Lux found herself in Ahri’s clutches as the fox once again began to fondle her.
“Oohhh, you’re so cute when you’re like this, Lux~!” Ahri squealed in delight, wrapping her tails once again around Lux’s body in an erotic massage.
“Ngh! Ahri, cut it– AAH!”
Lux's former gusto turned back to embarrassment as Ahri groped her, confounded by the fox's playfulness after her prior melancholy.
Smiling with satisfaction, Nidalee purred, “Mmm-hmm, thatta girl. Give him one for me while you’re at it, alright?”
As Lux opened her eyes to look at Nidalee, she suddenly found the huntress’ face right before her own, a devious grin across her face.
“Here’s one for luck, mousey,” Nidalee said, suddenly moving forward and wrapping her lips around Lux’s mouth.
Lux was caught completely off guard by Nidalee’s seductive maneuver, too distracted by Ahri’s playful groping. It wasn’t her first kiss, thankfully, but she had never done something like this, let alone with another woman. Even with the heat of the sauna already making her sweat, Lux felt her body begin to burn inside, either from passion or humiliation. More likely it was the latter; Lux wasn't into other women, at least not in the same way as the two buxom women who molested her, even if they were just doing it to tease her.
She hoped Ahri and Nidalee would stop playing around with her soon, or she feared she would die of embarrassment before she had the chance to fight on Leona’s side.
Chapter 7 - Commencement
Leona stood in an infinite darkness, her golden armor the only source of light. Even with the sun’s light radiating from her, she could not see anything in the darkness. Frantically she looked in all directions, the sound of a guttural snarl echoing through the black expanse. She recognized the sound with ease.
But then she heard a voice, one filled with light, yet made her heart sink. “Leona? Leona, where are you?” the voice cried out.
“Lux… Lux, I’m over here!” Leona shouted, trying to find the girl in the darkness.
Within seconds, her eyes lay upon the blonde girl, who stood trembling in the shadows, her silver Demacian light armor damaged and her outfit torn to shreds. Bruises and cuts lined Lux’s body. There was no sign of the girl’s wand; she was defenseless.
Leona ran as fast as her legs could carry her to try and reach the girl. As she neared her, a decaying dragon’s claw emerged from the black abyss, right behind Lux.
Lux shrieked in terror as the claw wrapped around her and dragged her toward the black fog. Leona reached out to her, desperate to save the girl.
But it was too late. Lux let out a final scream as she disappeared into the darkness, Leona’s hand missing hers by a mere inch.
Tears fell from the paladin’s eyes as she collapsed to her knees. She could not withhold her sorrow or the pain of such a loss. It was as though the darkness had ripped her unborn child from her fingers, never to be seen again.
As Leona’s cries echoed through the darkness, she did not even acknowledge the tyrannical sound of laughter that resounded in her ears: the bellowing laugh of the dark dragon that towered over her.
With a gasp, Leona shot up in her bed. She was in the Solarium again. It was past midnight outside.
Placing a palm to her forehead, Leona sighed, “Just a dream.”
Despite her assurance to the fact, Leona could not forget the horrible memory. To see Lux in Plagueis’ clutches was unbearable. And knowing she had failed to protect her made the vision far worse.
But it was just a dream, right?
Restlessness quickly settled in for the Solari as she tried to lie down and resume her slumber. She tossed and turned in her bed; she could not stay the tension in her mind.
A few minutes later, Leona rose again from her bed, knowing she probably would not get back to sleep that night. Stepping out of her bed into a pair of gold-trimmed slippers, Leona stepped toward the center of the Solarium. Though it was late at night, the stars above shone brightly down on the paladin.
Leona gazed up at the stars, as if they looked down at her, and she looked back. “How strange,” she said. “The sun itself is also a star, but why do I only gain power from it? Is it simply distance? Or is it–”
Leona’s musings suddenly stopped as she heard a clattering noise at the entrance to her room. Instinctively she rushed to her sword and shield, drawing the blade from its scabbard and holding it and her shield in a defensive stance.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!”
There was no response, but Leona heard a faint groan of pain from the entrance. Cautiously she moved to the stairs.
Lying in a dizzy heap on the stone steps, Lux groaned as she pushed herself up. She was dressed in a white nightgown with similarly-white slippers. Her wand was at the bottom of the stairs, evidently the source of the clatter.
Realizing she had been caught, Lux said sheepishly, “Uh… Hi, Leona… Eh hehe…”
“What are you doing here at this hour?” Leona asked, sheathing her blade. Then, with sharp realization, she said, “Have– Have you been spying on me while I’m sleeping!? And why do you have your wand?”
Knowing she couldn’t talk her way out, Lux said, “I just wanted to make sure you’re alright, so I was watching you with an invisibility spell. You were tossing around in your sleep. I just–”
“And what about yourself? Do you know how late it is? You should know better than this, Lux! Now, please, go back to your room.”
Almost shouting, Lux suddenly said with uncharacteristic anger, “Will you stop it, Leona!? I don’t need you treating me like I’m your child! I’m a grown woman! I can decide for myself what to do with my time!”
Stepping back toward her bed as Lux advanced on her, Leona stammered, “L-Lux, I–”
“And I don’t have to listen to you when you tell me I shouldn’t get involved in your fight out of some unneeded worry! Haven’t you thought for a moment that I might be worried about you!?”
Her voice lowering, now trembling, Lux continued, “You keep telling me you don’t want my help fighting him. But don’t you think that’s just making me more upset? What if you can’t beat him? You said it yourself; he’s more powerful than we may know. That’s why… that’s why I can’t just stand by and do nothing while you face him.”
“I know you just want to protect me from him, but don’t you think I want to do the same? Please, Leona… let me help you defeat him. I… I don’t want you to fight alone…”
Small tears were beginning to well up in Lux’s eyes. Leona could not bear such a sight, stunned by such consideration from her friend. How could she have been so uncaring to Lux, when all she wanted was to aid in her mission?
Leona’s sword and shield clattered to the ground as she stepped forward and embraced Lux. The sobbing girl buried her face in Leona’s bosom as the redhead stroked her hair.
“Lux, I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you wanted this so…”
The two sat down on the bed as Lux continued to cry. Even Leona was starting to form some tears in her eyes.
“P-Please, Leona… Let me help you…” Lux said amidst her sobs.
Leona wasn’t quite sure whether to accept. The memory of her nightmare was still fresh in her mind, and to see it happen in reality would be unbearable. But the girl before her… how could she turn back such a friend?
Tightening her embrace, Leona nodded and said, “Lux… thank you. We’ll face him together.”
Lux’s sobs began to subside. She looked up at Leona and said, “Together?”
“Yes. Together, Lux.”
“Th-Thank you, Leona. I won’t let you down.”
Smiling as Lux wrapped her arms around her, Leona looked back skyward. The stars continued to shine down on the Solarium; they suddenly seemed much brighter than before.
“So beautiful,” said Leona.
“The stars. Look.”
Lux turned her gaze to the sky, watching the stars in the clear night sky.
“Wow… they really are beautiful tonight,” said Lux.
Releasing her grip on Leona, Lux sat beside the paladin as the two watched the stars above. Even in the darkness of space, they continued to shine brightly, dispelling the otherwise black sky.
A long silence between the two passed before Lux said, “I should get going. You need your sleep.”
But as Lux got to her feet, she felt Leona’s hands wrapped around her wrist. She turned as Leona said, “Wait, Lux.” After a pause, Leona asked, “Could… could you please stay with me? Just for tonight? I may not be able to rest without knowing you’re safe.”
Lux stared incredulously at Leona for a moment, but then saw the plight in the paladin’s eyes.
“I had a dream… no, a nightmare. The dragon, he…”
It was all she needed to hear. Lux nodded as she said, “Oh… alright.”
“Thank you,” said Leona. “I’m sorry to put you through this, but it means a lot to me.”
The two slowly made their way to the bed and underneath the covers. As Lux lay down, the blonde girl’s cheeks turned a slight shade of red as she felt Leona’s chest press against her back and her arms wrap around her body. She couldn’t remember the last time she had ever shared a bed with someone other than her parents, and that was when she was a toddler. Lying in a bed with another woman was a strange sensation for the girl.
“L-Leona? What are you–”
“I’m sorry,” Leona interrupted. “I–”
“No, it’s alright,” Lux answered quickly with embarrassment. “It’s just that–”
Lux suddenly realized Leona was not listening to her, her eyes shut and her breathing slow. The blonde tried to move, but the redhead’s grip held strongly, clearly not wanting the girl to leave. Yet it wasn’t a vice-like grip; it was far more affectionate than that.
With a small groan, Lux thought, “I didn’t think I’d be spending the night as your teddy bear, Leona.”
Various squawks and cawing noises filled Leblanc’s ears as she waltzed through the Noxian Aviary, home to various species of large and sinister birds. Vultures, crows, hawks, owls, and especially ravens could be found perched all over the place, many watching the Deceiver unflinchingly as she passed. Though she had been in the place countless times, Leblanc could never quite shake how eerie it felt to have so many eyes watching her every move.
Before the Deceiver, however, was a figure that made even these birds quiver. Though he limped with each step, Jericho Swain’s image made even the limp seem intimidating, for the birds that lined the path scattered as he approached. Whether their actions were from fear or respect, no one could really be sure but the Master Tactician.
“So the Radiant Dawn has finally challenged the Dragon of Desolation to battle…” Swain mused. “How fortunate.”
It was at this moment that Swain stopped before a cage, taking a brief moment to drop some seeds in for its occupant. The bird, a colorful red parrot with a silver beak, eagerly swooped down from its perch and feasted on the seeds Swain had given. The bird was a stark contrast to the others in the Aviary, much more vibrant in colors, and Leblanc had always wondered why Swain kept the parrot. She never questioned it, though; nothing could come of it.
“So you wish for me to aid the dragon in this battle?” asked Leblanc.
“Yes, I do,” Swain answered. “However, it would prove far more beneficial if the dragon’s winning streak were to be… cut short. After all, Summoner Verge can’t test his improvements to the barrier design if the dragon should win.”
“You have plans for the dragon, then?”
“More or less, Evaine. They are… in development.”
“Say no more, Jericho. It will be done.”
With that, Leblanc seemed to glide away as her body faded, vanishing from sight. Without even acknowledging her disappearance, Swain took another handful of seeds from his pouch, this serving going to the raven Beatrice, who perched on his shoulder.
Summoner’s Rift crackled with power as the Field of Justice came alive. Crystals lining the various approaches and on magically-protected posts began to glow as they projected images of what they saw to audiences at the Institute of War, as well as to viewers across Valoran. It was a cloudy day, but this was to be a match to remember for the people.
Standing next to the Demacian Nexus, Lux fidgeted about as she looked to the spawning platform nearby. While the others, consisting of Prince Jarvan IV, Queen Ashe of Freljord, and Curator Nasus, stood nearby, they were missing one of their numbers. Lux couldn’t help but worry that something was wrong.
Just as she was about to ask, however, a ray of light shone down on the platform from above. Materializing from the light, Leona appeared before the rest of the team, dressed in her golden armor as though she were descended from the heavens.
Overhead, the Champions heard a female voice say, “She descends from the sky after two months in absence, here now to banish the darkness! Paladin Leona, the Radiant Dawn!”
Distantly, the Champions could hear the cheers of the crowd upon Leona’s return to the Fields of Justice, emanating from the various crystals that surveyed the battle. Leona, however, paid them no heed, her mind in contact with her Summoner.
“Is everything alright, Leona?” Montrose asked telepathically.
“I’m fine, Summoner Montrose,” Leona answered.
“That’s not what I’m sensing.”
Taking a quick glance at Lux, Leona thought, “I’m worried about her.”
“You should not worry. Sandra is a very capable Summoner and I know she will do whatever she can to protect her. You need to focus on the task at hand, however.”
“I understand. We cannot fail today.”
“Ah, you finally arrive on the fields of battle, paladin,” said Jarvan. “It has been a while since I last saw you.”
“Thank you, Exemplar,” Leona replied. “I only wish we didn’t have to meet again under such circumstances.”
“Nonsense! We go to meet the Dragon of Desolation in glorious combat! I can’t think of a better circumstance!”
As Jarvan began to laugh mirthfully, Ashe made a disdainful sigh as she said, “Demacian oaf…”
“You do not think the same, Queen of Freljord?” Jarvan asked, noticing Ashe’s remark.
“Unlike you, I am not here for sport. Death’s Spire is in close proximity to Freljord, and I fear that the dragon will use my homeland as a place to stretch his wings if he is freed.”
“Hmm… a valid concern, milady. Rest assured; that will not happen on my watch.”
At this moment, Nasus entered the conversation, his wisdom complementing his deep voice. “If you intend to keep your word, Exemplar of Demacia, I would not take the Dragon of Desolation lightly. He has been capable of bringing pause to my brother, where no other would make him hesitate. Do you believe such a foe is to be trifled with?”
Jarvan stared at Nasus for a moment before answering, “Your wisdom does little to lighten the mood, Curator. My aim is to not let us fall victim to despair, for if we should fear the dragon, he has already won half the battle.”
“Very wise of you, Prince. Very wise.”
“His Highness is right,” said Lux. “We can’t let him phase us, or we’re playing right into his hands. Erm, claws… you know…”
As Jarvan and Leona nodded approvingly to Lux, Ashe turned toward the Noxian base and said, “Speaking of which…”
The others turned to watch as a swell of darkness began to build in the Noxian base.
Leblanc stood near the Noxian Nexus as she watched a black crystal at the rear of the spawning platform. The warped Nexus crystal crackled with power as a violet glow surrounded it. Nearby, Warwick, Yorick and Urgot all cringed as they slowly backed away from the crystal, fearing what would soon come.
The announcer spoke again. “He hails from the highest, darkest peak of the Ironspike Mountains: Death’s Spire. A legend of the past and present, his cruelty knows no bounds, his might unmatched. Time and again, he has proven his power on the Fields of Justice! Will he prove it again, or will he finally face defeat? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… Lord Plagueis the Vile, the Dragon of Desolation!”
Thunder boomed as the crystal surged with power, releasing an evil light that forced the Noxians to shield their eyes. The Deceiver, however, kept her gaze. Before the light faded, they felt the ground shake. The air became foul, and suddenly their knees felt heavy.
“ENTER THE DRAGON!!!” Plagueis shouted, his tyrannical roar following suit. The war cry echoed throughout Summoner’s Rift.
Leblanc couldn’t help but marvel at the dragon. Even though it was just an avatar of the beast, it might as well have been the original. Larger than any other Champion in the League, and brimming with such power that he made it difficult for others to stand near him. Neon flame flickered between his teeth, while wisps of poison exuded from the decaying holes in his flesh and scales. His glowing golden eyes, however, were what intimidated Leblanc; it was as though they could see through any deception, and that his gaze could pierce through to one’s very soul.
“An impressive entrance, Lord Destroyer,” said Leblanc, prompting the dragon to turn his gaze to her. “Most impressive.”
“The Deceiver…” said Plagueis. “I remember you well. Yeessss… Know that I will not suffer your treachery here today, of all days.”
“Of course, my lord. Today you face against your hated… rival? Archenemy? Whichever it is, I have no doubt we will emerge victorious today.” Plagueis’ eye quickly narrowed, prompting Leblanc to say hastily, “I mean you will emerge victorious today. How silly of me.”
“But if I may, my lord, would it not be of benefit to you to have us aid you in defeating the– HGH!”
Leblanc suddenly found herself in the clutches of the dragon’s claw, unable to move.
“You DARE to suggest such a thing, Deceiver!?” Plagueis snapped furiously. “I require no assistance in defeating the Radiant Dawn! No!” Turning to the other Noxians with Leblanc still in his grasp, Plagueis snarled, “If any of you think to face the Radiant Dawn once I have taken to the field, you will suffer a worse fate than hers! Yeessss!” Turning back to Leblanc, he then said, “Was that at all unclear?”
Gasping for air, Leblanc answered, “N-Not at all!”
Plagueis released his grip on Leblanc, the illusionist dropping to the ground. As she caught her breath, Leblanc said with a wheeze, “B-But, surely we must engage her before you arrive, my lord? If not, her side could obtain a potential victory before you join the battle. Surely that would not be of benefit to you.”
Plagueis gazed angrily at Leblanc for her suggestion, but after a moment he said, “Very well… Yet if you value your life, you will not intervene once I face her myself. No…”
Turning toward the Demacian base, Plagueis’ voice turned to shouting. “Hear me, Solari, and know that your destroyer speaks! You and your band of Champions shall have a half-hour to prepare yourselves. After such a time, I shall descend upon you as your Armageddon, and the world as you know it shall burn around you! For I am Plagueis the Destroyer, and I am without equal! My wrath shall be swift and terrible! And you shall not have the privilege of mercy, Solari, when I lay my vengeance upon you!”
The very force of the shouting made the stone floor of the Noxian base crack, and the trees in the forest shook violently to the call. It was as though Summoner’s Rift trembled in fear at the dragon’s voice.
With a sly grin, Leblanc said, “You show surprising restraint, my lord. I imagined you would just fly straight for the enemy’s base and the paladin.”
Not even turning to face the illusionist, Plagueis replied, “My battle with the Radiant Dawn is all in good time, Deceiver. Yeessss…”
Before Leblanc could question the dragon further, Plagueis spread his massive wings and shot skyward, nearly knocking over the Noxian Champions with the sheer force of his wing beats. Leblanc watched as Plagueis rose higher and higher, soon vanishing in the clouds.
Turning back to the others, Leblanc said, “You all know the plan. We engage the enemy as much as possible for the first half-hour, but after that we stay out of the dragon’s way. And we are to engage the paladin as little as possible; I’d prefer it if she were in top shape upon facing the big bad dragon.”
With a snarl, Warwick said, “And what of the Crownguard?”
“That will be Urgot’s job.” Turning to the Headsman’s Pride, Leblanc said, “You are to engage the Lady of Luminosity as much as possible.”
With a guttural wheeze, Urgot said, “Orders… received.” The mechanical monstrosity then marched toward the southern lane of Summoner’s Rift.
As Yorick and Warwick left the base, Leblanc took a moment to adjust the crystals of her staff. They had been knocked around a bit while she had been in Plagueis’ grip, but were otherwise undamaged.
Leblanc turned her gaze skyward as she felt a pulse of magic radiate from the sky. It was faint, but her attunement to magic allowed her to sense the powerful force that came from above.
A clap of thunder suddenly echoed through Summoner’s Rift, yet there was no presence of a storm above.
Ven! Mul! Riik!
Leblanc could barely make out the words. Ancient Draconic, by the sound of it…
The sorceress smirked. “Tricky, aren’t you?” she quipped, and then left to take her place in the center lane.
The clouds above began to thicken. The battle had begun.
Chapter 8 – Conflict
Veils of clouds and smog slowly encroached on the skies above Summoner’s Rift. While it had been somewhat cloudy that day, a dark power had spread throughout the clouds, expanding them and turning grey to black.
In the middle of the clouds, on wings of death, Plagueis’ gaze scanned the battle below. Two lights below were the center of his attention: one was golden, and originated from the woman he intended to tear limb from limb. The other was from a young girl with blonde hair, dressed in silver light armor and carrying a wand.
No doubt this child was the so-called Lady of Luminosity. Plagueis had inquired Nocturne about the girl a few matches ago; the Eternal Nightmare’s opinion of the girl was spiteful at best. Yet there was something else the dragon had noticed between her and the Radiant Dawn… a sort of affection between the two. Yeessss…
Plagueis snarled with anticipation. The dragon entered another black cloud, and a crash of thunder echoed again as the dragon’s shout continued to twist the sky.
Light shimmered through the air in a concentrated pulse as Lux swung her wand at a small purple-robed creature, striking the creature directly in the head with her attack. The minion was launched back a short distance onto its back before its body faded away, a small piece of magical power entering Lux’s body as her reward for the kill. She felt her power grow ever so slightly; it would take a lot more than just a few minions to restore her power to its fullest.
As Lux turned to the other minions in the wave, she lightly released her wand from her hand, which proceeded to spin near her palm, releasing a ball of distorted light to engulf four more of the purple creatures. Her Lucent Singularity hovered in the middle of the minions for a moment before Lux closed her hand, causing the ball to explode in a flash of light magic. The minions nearby were blown away by the blast, fading from existence as their power entered Lux.
It was then that Lux heard a familiar whistling noise, one she did not enjoy hearing. From the corner of her right eye, she saw a putrid blade rocketing toward her, one of Noxian design: an Acid Hunter missile.
Before Lux could ready a shield to block the shot, a shimmering golden blade came down on the missile and shattered it. Leona quickly stepped in front of Lux, taking a defensive stance.
“Lux, please be more careful!” said Leona.
“I could’ve blocked that!” Lux replied.
Before Leona could respond, a second Acid Hunter flew in her direction. Leona again struck away the bladed missile with her sword, sending it careening into the ground.
Lux couldn’t help but give the paladin an annoyed look. Even now, Leona continued to be overprotective of the blonde, insisting that she accompany her in the southern lane. This had left Ashe to take the center lane against Leblanc, something the Frost Archer did not appreciate. Leona barely even let Lux get two meters from her without insisting that she follow. Looking out for her safety was one thing, but this was overdoing it, Lux thought.
On the bright side, facing a lone Urgot was better than facing Leblanc, especially since the two women outnumbered the Noxian executioner. The mechanically reanimated horror stood under the shadow of a large statue with a purple crystal staff, covered by the turret’s field of fire from any close-range attacks. In such a position, Lux knew Urgot would be very difficult to attack without wandering into the turret’s range, while he could fire at them from a distance with near-impunity.
Urgot made a guttural groan as his right arm released another Acid Hunter, again aimed at Lux. But again, Leona’s blade met the projectile and struck it down.
“Resistance persists…” Urgot wheezed. “Altering attack profile…”
Urgot’s left arm raised as he launched a green canister from his mechanical claw. The Noxian Corrosive Charge spiraled as it careened toward Lux and Leona.
“Get back!” Leona shouted, raising her shield to the incoming projectile. The shield opened as sunlight surrounded the paladin.
The canister smashed into the ground near the two, exploding in a burst of acid and tiny pieces of shrapnel. Lux barely managed to surround herself with a barrier of light as the acidic wave washed over her and Leona. Upon contact with Leona’s aura, the acid almost instantly evaporated, unable to breach the intense solar shield. Yet with Lux, the acid quickly began to eat away at the barrier. A few droplets leaked through, nearly searing Lux’s left foot as she quickly moved away from the acid.
Again raising his right arm, Urgot said, “Target locked. Commencing termination…”
Another Acid Hunter fired from Urgot’s arm, this one traveling in an arch to strike at Lux from above. The homing missile smashed into Lux’s barrier, shattering it as Lux shrieked. The force of her breaking barrier caused Lux to stumble backward, falling to the ground on her back.
Before Lux could recover, she heard another Acid Hunter whistle through the air. It was too fast; she would never avoid it.
The sound of the blade shattering filled Lux’s ears barely a second later. She looked up to see Leona had blocked the missile with her shield.
More Acid Hunters flew through the air, yet each met either Leona’s shield or her sword, unable to breach the paladin’s defenses. From behind Leona, Lux saw Urgot moving sideways on his four crab-like legs, trying to find a better angle to shoot from in trying to hit her. But no matter how much Urgot moved, he couldn’t get an angle that Leona wasn’t covering.
Lux then realized that Urgot was getting closer to them. He had foolishly left the protection of his turret.
Scrambling to her feet, wand in hand, Lux said, “Leona, move!”
Slashing aside another missile, Leona stepped to the side as Lux swung her wand forward, releasing a ball of light at Urgot. Too late, the Noxian realized his mistake as the Light Binding spell struck him, the magic rooting him to the ground.
Leona immediately rushed toward Urgot, slashing aside another Acid Hunter that Urgot fired in defense. The Noxian immediately followed the failed shot with an energy blast from his left arm, this one striking Leona’s shield and sending a surge of debilitating energy through her. Leona fought the sensation of weakness with a shout, leaping toward Urgot with her blade ready to strike, even as the Noxian’s Terror Capacitor projected an energy field around him.
Leona’s blade met Urgot’s shield, sending energy crackling between the two. The paladin struggled as she attempted to send the blade through the Noxian executioner’s black heart, while Urgot’s left arm charged for another shot.
“Surrender, Urgot! You can’t win!” said Leona.
“Must… punish…” Urgot replied, his arm now fully charged and aimed at Leona.
Just before Urgot fired a second blast, another ball of light struck him, directly hitting the Noxian’s left arm. The mechanical limb short-circuited as it fired its blast off course, sending it into the ground.
The barrier surrounding Urgot shattered, sending Leona’s blade plunging into the Noxian’s chest. Urgot groaned in seething anger as his body failed him, his mechanical legs buckling under his weight. Green ooze seeped from his body as Urgot fell to the ground, growling as death claimed him.
Panting heavily, Leona slowly withdrew her blade from Urgot’s chest, and watched as the Headsman’s Pride vanished in a swell of blue lights, his soul spared oblivion by the Summoners. Leona sighed as a surge of magical power entered her body, strengthening her.
“Nice work, Leo!” Lux said gleefully. “We showed him!”
Leona turned as she said, “Let us hope we will find similar success against the dragon.”
Lux nodded in approval as Leona walked toward her. But then, a second later, Lux heard a rustling from the river, and turned to see the grass shaking wildly.
In an instant, a blur of dark blue fur and gold-plated claws scrambled out of the foliage. Warwick snarled as he made a beeline for Leona.
“LOOK OUT!” Lux shouted.
Leona turned just as Warwick pounced at her, making the paladin shriek as the werewolf sent her crashing to the ground. A moment later, Leona screamed in pain as Warwick’s claws sank into her flesh between her neck and left shoulder. Adrenaline rushed as Leona tried desperately to force Warwick off her, pressing her sword arm against his neck, but the werewolf would not relent in his assault, his fangs snapping mere inches from Leona’s face.
And through his snarls, Leona heard Warwick’s sadistic laughter as he relished in the scent of her blood, and the sound of her painful screams. Yet it was her struggling that gave him the most pleasure; he enjoyed it most when his victims fought vainly to survive him.
“GET OFF HER!” Lux screamed, swinging her wand at Warwick.
A blast of light smashed into the werewolf, sending him hurtling a few meters as he released his death-grip on Leona, tumbling as he hit the ground. Still in pain, Leona struggled to stand as Warwick wildly went on all fours, his bloodlust overriding any sense of reason he had. Warwick lunged again, but Leona was ready this time, shouting as she swung her shield at him. The shield met the werewolf’s gold-plated claws, releasing a burst of sunlight as Warwick was sent back again.
But as Warwick landed again, stunned by the shield blow, Leona stumbled onto her knee, her vision becoming blurry. She had lost a good deal of blood, and who knew what could have been coating the werewolf’s claws. She urged her body to stand up, watching as Warwick, who had recovered from her blow, charged again.
A golden gauntlet connected with Warwick’s jaw, stunning the werewolf briefly as Jarvan IV swung his blade toward him. Warwick recovered and leapt back, avoiding the lance.
“You’ll not lay another filthy claw on her, beast!” said Jarvan, readying his lance to battle Warwick.
Snarling, Warwick answered, “You will add to my feast, Prince of Demacia!”
With that, Warwick’s hands suddenly sprouted with magical flame, which he directed at Jarvan. The Prince shouted in pain as the Ignite spell engulfed him, as though his insides were on fire, yet his body did not burn.
The prince suddenly smirked as he said, “I do love a challenge, mongrel.”
Infuriated by this, Warwick howled as he rushed forward, intent on murdering the prince before he finished off Leona. The werewolf’s claws raked at Jarvan, who became surrounded by a shield of light. Behind the prince, Lux’s wand spun as she focused on maintaining the barrier.
Just as the barrier broke, Jarvan struck, lunging forward with his lance. The weapon ran clean through Warwick’s chest and out the werewolf’s back. Snarling as his own blood pooled in his maw, Warwick vainly tried to swing his claws at Jarvan, but each blow came out weaker and weaker as life left the werewolf’s body.
“Die now, Noxian dog!” Jarvan said as he ripped his lance from Warwick’s chest, causing the werewolf to fall to the ground on his back. The prince then raised the weapon and plunged it into the werewolf’s throat, finishing the kill. Blue light took Warwick’s body a few seconds later, and a surge of magic empowered the prince.
Leona watched Jarvan’s bloody victory as she held her own reddened shoulder, trying to stay conscious. She wasn’t about to bleed out, but it was difficult for her not to fall over from the blood loss. Her amber hair was in a tangled mess on her shoulders.
“Leo, are you alright?” said Lux, who fearfully ran over to the paladin and knelt beside her.
“I… I’ll be alright,” said Leona. Then, turning to Jarvan, she said, “Thank you for your assistance, Exemplar.”
“Think nothing of it, Paladin Leona,” said Jarvan. “After all, it wouldn’t be very prince-like of me if I had let that monster slay a lovely woman such as you.”
As Jarvan laughed jovially to this comment, Leona couldn’t help but be offended. The prince was either being a misogynist buffoon, or he did not respect Leona’s strength in battle; neither was meant to be a compliment. The redhead let it pass, though; he was a Demacian prince, after all, and they tended to have a rather lofty opinion of themselves.
A second later, Jarvan added, “You’d best return to our base and tend to your wounds, paladin. Don’t worry – I’ll look after Luxanna while you’re gone.”
With a slight scoff, Lux said, “You too?” This was followed by a groan of discontent from the blonde.
“Thank you, Jarvan,” said Leona. “I’ll try to hurry back as soon as I can.”
Lux groaned again as she watched blue light surrounding Leona, warping her back to their base. It seemed the others weren’t going to let her fend for herself this match, and she didn’t appreciate having to be constantly babysat.
Leona slightly stumbled as her feet touched down on the spawning platform. Yet as she did, she felt a familiar, cool sensation wash over her body as her wounds began to magically heal. She sat on the floor as she gingerly touched her shoulder, watching as both the wound and her damaged armor began to repair. Despite all the times she had been to Summoner’s Rift, Leona had never really gotten used to such magic.
Yet that was not on her mind at the time. A sigh escaped her lips as Leona thought of how quickly Warwick had almost bested her. If she couldn’t defeat the Blood Hunter even with Lux backing her up, did she stand a chance against the Dragon of Desolation?
“It is not wise to dwell upon such things, Paladin…” said a deep voice, startling Leona.
Leona turned to Nasus as she said, “I don’t appreciate you reading my thoughts, Nasus.”
“My apologies. I merely seek to provide you with council, so that perhaps you may have the strength to face the foe lurking above us.”
As Nasus’ gaze turned skyward, so too did Leona’s. It was far cloudier now than at the start of the match, yet Leona could not mistake a black mass that soared through them. Leona kept her eyes fixated on Plagueis, somehow knowing that the dragon was staring back.
“The Dragon of Desolation is formidable…” said Nasus. “Do not deceive yourself into believing that your battle with him is your responsibility alone. Though your power may be his bane, you are not.”
For a moment, Leona didn’t get what Nasus meant, but after a few seconds, the meaning sunk in: behind her holy power, Leona was still human, and thus vulnerable as a human.
“It… it is not your aid I worry over, Curator, nor that of the others…” said Leona. “I–”
“Trust in her, paladin, as she trusts in you. Alone, you are doomed. As one, we may yet defeat him.”
Leona paused for a moment, then nodded and said, “Thank you.”
“I must return to my station. The Gravedigger continues to press his offensive to the north, and I must stem his assault. He is… more aggressive than usual.”
Without another word, Nasus strode from the base back to his lane, while Leona continued with her recovery.
Vessaria stroked her temple as she watched the match through a crystal ball in her chamber. Twenty five minutes had now passed since the match had started; the Demacians, outnumbering the Noxians four-to-five, had destroyed three of the Noxian turrets, and were leading by several kills. But these were short-sighted victories…
There wasn’t much time left before Plagueis descended.
Tapping a small crystal nearby, Vessaria watched as the crystal changed its view to focus on Leona, who again was recovering in her base’s fountain. She had just helped Ashe in defeating Yorick and destroying another turret, but had been wounded in the process. The Gravedigger, it seemed, was gunning for her.
At that moment, another small red crystal began to flicker with light, on and off repeatedly. Vessaria tapped this crystal, changing the view to an image of Summoner Verge.
“High Councilor, all preparations have been made,” said Verge. “The materials for the new barrier matrix have been assembled and are ready for activation.”
“Very good, Summoner Verge,” said Vessaria. “Remain on standby until our Champions can defeat the dragon’s avatar.”
With another tap, a second image appeared in the crystal. The familiar face of Jericho Swain met Vessaria's eyes.
"I trust the battle goes well, High Councilor?" Swain asked in his usual pragmatic tone.
"As well as could be expected, Jericho," said Vessaria. "Remember, when the dragon descends, I don't want to see your people interfering. We can't afford to have them give Plagueis any advantage."
"They know the plan, Vessaria. Though I would advise that you keep a closer watch on the Gravedigger. He cannot be trusted."
Vessaria nodded. As Verge and Swain's visages vanished from the crystal, which shifted back to watch Leona, Vessaria’s fingers returned to her temple, continuing to stroke it. It was a habit of hers whenever she became nervous, yet few others knew of it.
In soliloquy, Vessaria said, “This will all be for naught if you fail us, Leona…”
Lux moved cautiously with each step she made into the Noxian jungle. Again, Leona had been separated from her, but for once in the match, Lux was alone. She had initially thought she would be relieved to get some time on her own in this match, but considering the timing, Lux suddenly regretted her previous desire.
A loud crashing noise made Lux jump with a start, grasping her wand tightly as she turned to the source. A moment later, a familiar, prideful voice made her calm down a bit.
“Still as pitiful as ever, Headsman!” said Jarvan. “You Noxians never learn!”
Lux sighed with a mix of relief and exasperation as she turned a corner. Jarvan was again rubbing in another victory atop his deceased opponent, Urgot, who lay in a broken heap of scrap metal and green blood as his body dematerialized.
Turning to Lux, Jarvan said, “Ah, Luxanna! You missed a good kill.”
“I’m sure it was, your highness,” Lux replied with the slightest sarcasm.
“And now for the spoils of battle…” Turning to the still body of a large stone golem, Jarvan reached for a sigil held in the ancient golem’s chest. But before he touched it, he turned to Lux and asked, “A gift for the Lady of Luminosity?”
“Oh, well… I–”
“For me? You shouldn’t have…” said a sultry woman’s voice.
Just as Jarvan turned to the source of the voice, a magical set of chains lashed forward at the golem’s body, smashing through it and grasping the crest it held. With the same speed, the chains retracted, bringing the crest back to Leblanc, who caught it effortlessly in her hand.
As the crest’s magic was absorbed into Leblanc’s body, Jarvan said irately, “Your timing is impeccable as always, Deceiver. But you won’t live to reap the rewards!”
“How adorable, little Prince,” Leblanc said coolly. “I would love to stay and play with the two of you, but… it’s just about time.”
Jarvan quickly began to rush at Leblanc, but only got a few steps before the illusionist vanished in a flash of light. Knowing Leblanc was long gone by now, Jarvan scowled as he turned back to Lux.
“Curse that Noxian harlot!” Jarvan snapped. “A coward to the core and without a shred of honor!”
Lightly giggling, Lux said, “You do know how to put them in perspective.” Then, her laughs ending and replaced by a moment of worry, Lux said, “But… what did she mean by ‘just about time’? Time for what?”
“Pay it no heed, Luxanna,” Jarvan said as he strode toward Lux. “She is a deceiver; she only said such a thing to plague your mind. Keep your mind on the battle; we have much to do and little time in which to do it.”
“I suppose you’re right. We’d better get back to base. Leona will probably throw a fit if I don’t–”
The sky above boomed with thunder, echoing all across Summoner’s Rift. Looking up, however, Lux saw no lightning or flash of light in the dark storm clouds above. The black and gray shroud above billowed violently, as though the sky were on fire.
Suddenly, Lux felt her legs suddenly become heavy as stone, her body weak. It was as though a foul presence were with her, weighing down not just her body, but her very spirit, tainting it through mere proximity. She had never felt anything so horrible before, even against Champions like Malzahar or Nocturne.
Lux trembled as she nearly fell to her knees, holding herself on a tree stump to stay standing. “Wh-What is this…? I…”
Grimly, Jarvan looked to the sky. “He comes…” said the prince, his formerly prideful tone replaced by a harsh demeanor.
A gust of wind rushed through the trees, making Lux yelp as she briefly lost balance. Jarvan stood strong, his lance at the ready as a shadow soared overhead.
Lux looked up as an ear-splitting roar came from above, making the very earth shudder in fear. As her eyes looked to the source, terror embraced her.
“Hear my voice and DESPAIR!” Plagueis shouted as he soared towards Lux and Jarvan, his fangs flickering with neon fire. A second later, the dragon roared as the flames surged from his maw.
Lux could barely scream before the dragon’s dark flame was upon her.
Chapter 9 – Despair
Terror was all Lux could feel in the instant Plagueis’ flames swept toward her. Her legs were frozen, despite her desperate thoughts to run. She wanted to scream, but her voice had left her. Sound had faded from her ears. Time seemed to slow down around her.
She fell backward as something knocked her down and hovered over her. Golden light flooded all she could see, surrounding her and her protector. It was a familiar light that assured her of safety, but only for an instant.
Lux finally screamed as the dragon’s fire met the golden shield and burned away at the protective shell. Heat and darkness seared her eyes as she turned away, cringing in terror as the flames washed over the shield. She could do nothing but pray.
As quickly as the dragon’s fire had engulfed the barrier the flames rescinded mere moments before the corroded shield faded away.
Lux trembled as she slowly opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was ash and scorched earth, burned around her in a circle. She had been spared.
“L-Lux… Are you alright?” said a normally-proud voice.
Her eyes now wide open, Lux turned to her savior.
“I-I’m okay. At least I–” Lux abruptly gasped as she set her eyes on the prince.
Jarvan’s armor smoldered as wisps of smoke trailed from the burned pieces of golden plate, now tarnished by fire. He was covered in soot and sweat, and his breath was heavy and ragged. Even the Golden Aegis had not kept back the dragon’s fire.
“Y-Your Highness!” Lux yelped. “You’re hurt!”
“It’s nothing, Luxanna. I’ve suffered worse. AGH!”
Jarvan suddenly grunted in pain as he tried to stand, and fell back on one knee. Lux nearly jumped to her feet as she tried to help Jarvan stand. As she took in the extent of the damage Jarvan had suffered, a wave of guilt began to engulf her. She had nearly gotten her crown prince killed because she had given in to fear.
“It’s not ‘nothing’, Your Highness! I have to get you to–”
“No, Luxanna. I’ll be fine. At least, for now I will be.” Jarvan interrupted, his gaze turning upward.
Lux turned to where Jarvan was looking, and dread once again overtook her. Plagueis was pulling out of his dive and, mere seconds later, he banked right as he began turning back toward his prey. It would not take long for him to attack again.
“Get out of here, Lux…” said Jarvan, slowly rising to his feet. “I will hold him off.”
“W-What!? No! You can’t defeat him!” said Lux.
“You think I do not know that? You need to rejoin with Leona and the others. Hurry!”
“As your future king, Luxanna, I command you to withdraw! NOW!”
Lux trembled as Jarvan rose to his feet and stepped toward the dragon as he flew toward them. The sight of her future liege, standing proudly in the face of certain death, left Lux in awe.
“As… As you command, Your Highness…” Lux said remorsefully. As she turned away from Jarvan, she whispered, “Forgive me…”
Tears began to fall as Lux ran.
The black storm above Summoner’s Rift filled Leona with dread as she stood on the Summoning Platform. She watched as a black silhouette descended from the murky clouds, one she could not mistake.
“It’s time, then,” said Montrose. Leona nodded silently in agreement.
Leona kept her gaze fixed on Plagueis as she left the platform. A moment later, her eyes widened as she saw the dragon’s fire sweep the forest, followed by a terrible echoing roar.
“He’s already attacking someone?” asked Leona.
“Yes. Hold on… Oh no…”
Leona did not even need to ask Montrose what was wrong. She knew it had to be Lux who was in danger. Without a word, she dashed out of the base as fast as her legs could carry her.
Jarvan briefly shut his eyes in relief as Lux fled. Normally, he would not have tolerated such a cowardly action from a Demacian, even a Crownguard. But the circumstances were far from normal.
“Very noble of you, Jarvan IV, if unwise,” said Summoner Cadarn.
“You speak the obvious, Summoner,” Jarvan replied smugly.
“Even if I had not used my Flash spell to help you kill Urgot, it would make little difference here. You simply cannot win.”
“Again with the obvious?”
“Hmph… Best of luck, Exemplar of Demacia.”
“My thanks, Summoner.”
At that moment, wind rushed through the trees in repeated gusts as the Dragon of Desolation slowly hovered before Jarvan. Plagueis’ golden eyes fixed their gaze on the gold plated warrior below him, then briefly turned and watched as a young maiden in light silver armor ran from them.
“The girl is smart to flee, Exemplar. Yeessss… She may postpone her imminent demise by a mere moment or two.”
Jarvan said nothing, instead readying his lance for battle.
With a short laugh, Plagueis asked, “Really? No boasts or threats, Prince? Or is it clear to you that you’ll not live up to them, same as your friend the half-dragon? Her tongue was far sharper than her talons.”
“Valoran will never see your tyranny rise again, Destroyer!” shouted Jarvan. “For the sake of Demacia, and for Shyvana’s honor, I will see you vanquished!”
“Ahh… bravado in the face of death…! How droll…” said Plagueis.
With a forceful beat of his decaying wings, Plagueis sent a gust of poisoned air at Jarvan, who braced as he stood against the powerful winds. Putrid air swept across him, rending at his throat and lungs, but Jarvan stayed standing.
Immediately afterward, Plagueis added, “How often I have faced ‘would-be heroes’ with the same deluded sense of righteousness, only for them to prove… unworthy in the event.”
“Are you going to continue with your bluster all day, dragon, or are you going to fight?” Jarvan said spitefully.
With a short laugh, Plagueis snarled as he said, “You will die, Prince of Demacia… excruciatingly. Yeessss…”
“Heh… Then ours is but to do and die. Have at you!”
At this, Jarvan leapt into the air at Plagueis, his lance directed at the dragon’s chest. Impacting with Plagueis, the force of Jarvan’s attack sent the two of them careening toward the ground, the prince sending the dragon down as though he were a meteor.
The ground quaked as the undead dragon crashed on his back, the impact sundering the earth and sending a wall of stone around the two combatants. Dust blinded any sight of what was occurring in the small stone arena.
Plagueis’ roared as he struck Jarvan with the back of his claw, blowing him off the dragon’s chest. The prince slammed into the ground from the force of the blow, but quickly righted himself as Plagueis did the same. The dragon’s scales showed a few cracks, but no severe damage from Jarvan’s attack.
“Impressive, Exemplar. Yeessss… You’re a cut above your other Demacian comrades. I will enjoy this…”
“As will I, dragon! Taste this!”
With those words, Jarvan drew a javelin made of a dark green metal from a holster on the back of his armor. As Plagueis reared back, spreading his massive wings, Jarvan threw the javelin into the dragon’s chest with all his might. Plagueis roared in pain as the javelin breached his scales as if they were but cloth.
As Plagueis snarled furiously, Jarvan said boastfully, “Orichalcum-tipped, monster. I’ve had my fair share of battles with dragons.”
“So you have… boy!” Plagueis hissed, immediately following up his words with flame.
Jarvan braced himself as once again, the shimmering Golden Aegis surrounded him. The shield quickly began to fade before the dragon’s dark fire. He grimaced as flames licked at him; the javelin had not had the effect he wanted, despite hitting so cleanly and in a vital area. Plagueis’ undead body clearly made him resistant to physical and internal harm – his internal organs were obviously not a weak point.
A second later, the Golden Aegis broke away as Jarvan readied a second javelin, the flames parting as Plagueis’ assault briefly ceased. With a yell, he threw it at the dragon’s left eye, hoping to gouge it out. But his aim was off center, and the javelin only sliced along the dragon’s scales, breaking off a few. Plagueis roared for battle, and a massive claw came sweeping down at Jarvan.
Plagueis’ claw met Jarvan’s lance. The ground beneath the prince’s feet cracked from the force of the blow, but Jarvan remained standing through superhuman effort. A second claw swung at the prince, who this time met it with a slashing blow from his lance, tearing into the decaying flesh of the dragon’s palm. Plagueis howled angrily as Jarvan staggered back, recoiling from the shock of the blow. He recovered a mere instant before the undead dragon’s fangs swept at him, intent on crushing him in his maw.
Jarvan howled as he slashed, his lance locking with the dragon’s razor sharp teeth. His muscles burned with pain as he struggled to keep Plagueis’ maw back. Acidic saliva from the dragon’s mouth dripped onto Jarvan’s armor, corroding it as toxic vapors burned at his lungs. Through it all, Jarvan could hear the dragon’s laughter, even as his teeth came ever closer to crushing him.
Suddenly, Plagueis wrenched back, his fangs hooked onto the lance. Jarvan barely had a moment to comprehend the move before he was flung into the air. Before he landed, the dragon’s maw released a shockwave of pure force, which struck the prince directly and drove him into the arena wall. The bone-shattering impact fractured his ribcage as Jarvan dropped to the ground, falling to his knees as his legs failed to support him. Blood ran down his body in small rivers, dripping rapidly beneath him.
As Jarvan gasped for breath, Plagueis snarled as he said, “A worthy effort, Exemplar… But ultimately futile.”
Despite his ruined body, Jarvan leaned forward to grasp his lance as fire began to swell in Plagueis’ mouth. Holding his weapon, Jarvan stared directly into the dragon’s eyes as he began rising to his feet.
Jarvan let out one last battle cry as Plagueis’ flames surged forth.
Lux leaned against a tree as she tried to catch her breath, still weary from the pressure of the dragon’s presence. She still found it hard to believe that Plagueis’ mere proximity had affected her so much. How could he be so strong?
“Lux, you need to keep moving,” said Summoner Sandra.
“I… I know… I just… need to… rest a moment…” Lux said with labored breaths.
“We may not have time. Cadarn won’t be able to help Jarvan for long. You need to move, now!”
Lux knew Sandra was right, but her legs were still so weak. She had not even run that far compared to the training regimens she had endured at the Demacian Military Academy. The mere thought of those days made Lux feel unpleasant. The pressure from the dragon’s presence must have had an effect on her, sapping her strength.
Suddenly, Lux heard a loud, defiant shout, and turned to its source. It was where she had left Jarvan. A second later, the shout died away.
“J-Jarvan? Is he…?”
After a brief pause, Sandra answered, “He fought bravely.”
Lux lowered her head remorsefully at this news. She wanted to tell herself that she could not have prevented it, but the fact that she abandoned him said otherwise.
“Jarvan…” Lux said with a slight sob.
“How sad…” said a guttural growl. “The prince saves the damsel at the cost of his life.”
Her eyes snapping open, Lux turned to the source of the voice. Defensively, she readied her wand as Warwick slowly stalked toward her, watching her every movement, his fangs eager to satiate his hunger.
“Too bad his sacrifice won’t mean much once I’m finished with you, my dear,” said Warwick, hungrily licking his teeth.
As Lux slowly backed away from Warwick, she heard Sandra say, “We can’t afford to fight him. The dragon would find you. Run!”
Despite her fatigue, Lux immediately broke into a run as Warwick charged on all fours. The werewolf was clearly faster, closing the gap in mere seconds. He lunged at Lux from behind, and she screamed as she was knocked to the forest floor. Carried by his own momentum, Warwick landed several meters in front of Lux.
“How disappointing…” said Warwick. “I was hoping you’d get a little further, child.”
“Disappointing indeed, Blood Hunter. Yeessss…” said a voice that sent an icy chill down Lux’s spine.
Warwick turned just as Plagueis’ massive form soared down from above, knocking away trees and causing the ground to quake as he landed behind the werewolf. Lux watched in terror as Plagueis’ gaze centered on her, and clutched her wand as though for support. It offered little reassurance.
“I expected the girl to get much further than this. The Demacian kulaan, prince, put up more of a fight than I anticipated. But only a little more.”
“The girl is mine, dragon!” Warwick snarled. “Seek your own prey!”
Then, just as Warwick was about to charge at Lux again, he suddenly howled in agony as a decaying dragon’s claw came crashing down upon him, crushing him underfoot. Warwick feebly scrambled to escape as his blood soaked the ground beneath him, crawling on his hands.
“I. Think. Not. NO!”
Lux watched in horror as Plagueis abruptly lowered his fangs to Warwick’s head and, with a sickening crunch, crushed the werewolf in his mouth. Warwick quickly vanished in a shower of blue light, but his blood remained on the dragon’s teeth.
As Lux nervously rose to her feet, Plagueis turned back to her and said, “And now… for you, mal kulaas.”
Lux shook terribly as she watched Warwick’s blood drip from the dragon’s fangs. She had seen what a conjured dragon’s fangs could do to someone, but this felt completely different. This was no simulacrum, not in the conventional sense. Even though she was only facing the dragon’s magical avatar, it may as well have been the real thing at the moment.
“Nowhere to run and no place to hide, Lady of Luminosity. And no prince to save you this time. No... Once I’m finished with you, the Radiant Dawn is next!” With that, Plagueis bellowed with laughter.
At that moment, something clicked in Lux’s mind. Her fear was suddenly replaced by determination as she raised her wand. Light shimmered from her and the instrument as she channeled her magic.
“Lux, what are you doing!?” said Sandra.
“It’s just as he said,” Lux replied. “I can’t run or hide, so I might as well fight! Not just for Jarvan’s sake, but for Leona’s! I won’t– I can’t give up so easily!”
There was a short pause, and then Sandra said, “Alright. I’ll back you up.”
“Ah, backed into a corner then, is it? A defiant last stand against impossible odds? How poetic… krilot vahdin… Well then, take your best shot, child.”
“You’re going to wish you hadn’t said that!” Lux retorted.
With a cry, Lux spun as she swung her wand in a myriad of patterns as dozens of bolts and threads of pure light shot forth at Plagueis. Startled, the dragon howled in pain as each struck and wrapped around his decaying body, the light burning away at his scales and flesh. Within moments, the dragon was engulfed by an enormous swell of light.
Making a final shout, Lux sent a bolt of condensed light from her wand right into the center of the light mass. As it connected, the light mass detonated in a burst of blinding light, which shone through the trees and, for an instant, lit up the darkened sky.
Lux took a series of deep breaths as the dust began to clear. The combined spells she had cast took their toll on her magical reserves. She looked into the dust cloud, and saw no sign of Plagueis.
“Did… did I get him?” Lux thought.
The notion almost instantly vanished as the dust cleared, and Plagueis emerged from the shroud. The attack, while failing to destroy the dragon, had clearly damaged him. More of his scales had been blown away, and his rotting flesh had received a number of extra burns. Small wisps of smoke were trailing from the burnt parts of his flesh. But unlike other wounds the dragon had sustained, these were not regenerating nearly as quickly.
Clearly infuriated, Plagueis said, “Tahrohdiis kiir!”
Roaring, Plagueis’ maw released a ball of dark flame right at Lux, who quickly spun her wand before her to create a barrier of light. The ball struck the barrier and immediately exploded, sending Lux flying back with a scream as dark flame showered the area, setting the forest on fire. Lux tumbled and rolled several meters across the forest floor from the force of the blast. She came to a stop about twenty-or-so meters away from where she had previously stood, now covered in scrapes and cuts.
Lux trembled in pain as she tried to get up, her wand miraculously still in hand. Her head rung loudly, while the rest of her body screamed from her wounds. She felt a strong gust of wind blow over her, and slowly turned to see Plagueis had once again taken to the sky, and was now diving straight for her, his flames at the ready.
“Embrace your end, child!”
A second ball of dark fire careened at Lux… who suddenly vanished in a flash of light moments before it struck. Where Lux had once been, the ball of fire burst and spread its flames across the forest floor.
Plagueis, on the other hand, made an infuriated snarl. The girl’s Summoner had saved her from death, but only momentarily.
“That was too close. Are you alright, Lux?” asked Sandra.
Breathing deeply as she nursed her right shoulder, sitting under a small embankment, Lux answered, “I-I think so. At least, I’m still in one piece so far.”
“Can you stand?”
Lux tried to get to her feet, but upon moving her left leg, she almost shrieked as she fell painfully back to the ground, instead giving off a short gasp.
“N-No… my ankle, I think it’s broken.”
Before Sandra could say anything in response, the sound of a massive wingbeat made Lux’s heart leap fearfully in her chest. Plagueis would find her soon if she did not move, but with a crippled ankle, she was in no condition to flee. Her mind raced to come up with something, though her fear was drowning out her thoughts.
“You’ll have to hide,” said Sandra. “Can you turn yourself invisible?”
“I think so.”
Quickly waving her wand over her head, Lux cast her spell, bending light in such a way that, after a few seconds, she seemed to fade away into nothingness. At least, to the naked eye, that was what appeared to happen. Shrouded in her magical cloak, Lux squirmed as best she could under the embankment, hoping to put herself out of sight, despite that she was conventionally invisible.
A moment passed before the ground shook. Lux watched as dirt and debris fell from the soil above her and off the top of the embankment. She froze, terrified, for Plagueis was directly above her, his golden eyes scanning through the forest.
“Hiding will not save you, child. Nikriinne fen kos siiv.” Plagueis said loudly.
Lux quivered as she lay huddled underneath one of the dragon’s fetid claws, trying to make herself as small as possible. She could see the razor sharp edges of each talon, each sharper than swords. Toxic vapors sifted down from above, choking the air in the ditch. Lux did her best to hold her breath, trying desperately not to make a sound.
Then, Plagueis said, “I need not my eyes to find you… for I smell your terror. Yeessss…”
The dragon’s nostrils flared as he sniffed the air. After a few seconds, he snorted as he lowered his head, seemingly checking the ditch for Lux’s scent. Lux shut her eyes tightly, praying that Plagueis would not find her. Seconds passed, but to Lux it felt as though it were an eternity.
Plagueis suddenly lifted his head as he spread his wings. Another powerful gust swept the forest floor, and the dragon’s claw vanished from view.
For a moment, Lux continued to shudder in fear under her magical cloak. Slowly she opened her eyes and saw no sign of the dragon. Briefly, she sighed in relief.
Then a second later, she gasped in terror as she was placed face to face with the undead dragon’s glowing eyes, which stared directly into her blue ones.
“Your scent is delightful, my dear!” Plagueis snarled devilishly.
Lux was petrified with fear. The dragon had known all along where she was.
She screamed as a decaying claw reached for her.
Sandra cried out as magic suddenly surged wildly through her. The brunette was blown away from the center of the Summoner’s Chamber and crumpled to the ground.
“Sandra!” Montrose shouted, yet he did not move from his stance, maintaining his link to Leona.
A nearby healer immediately rushed to Sandra’s side, checking her for signs of life. As Montrose watched, it took all his efforts not to rush to her. Sandra was a dear friend of his since his days as an apprentice, something of a younger sister to him. But duty demanded that he continue to aid Leona and not break his link with her.
“What happened?!” he asked the healer.
Taking a moment to check Sandra’s pulse before placing a hand on her forehead, the healer answered, “She is alive. But she is in no condition to continue. She must be taken to the hospital wing immediately.”
Montrose scowled. Various theories of what could have happened rushed through his mind. The most palpable was the one that disturbed him the most: in all likelihood, Plagueis had somehow forcibly severed Sandra’s link to Lux, incapacitating her in the process.
“What’s going on?” asked a woman’s voice in Montrose’s mind.
“It’s Sandra,” Montrose answered. “She’s been knocked unconscious.”
“What!? No! What about Lux!?”
“Leona, you must hurry! I will use a Ghost spell to accelerate you. Now move!”
Magic channeled from Montrose’s hands as he cast his spell, and moments later Leona was rushing through the forests of Summoner’s Rift with the speed of the wind.
Plagueis looked in amusement as Lux struggled to escape his grasp, but her efforts were to no avail. Her wand lay on the ground far below, while she was held tightly in the dragon’s right claw as Plagueis hovered in the sky.
“A pity this had to be so easy, child…” said Plagueis. “I was expecting more from you, but I suppose weakness must run in your family. Your brother, the Might of Demacia, was an unworthy foe as well. Yeessss…”
Frantically, Lux beat her fists on the dragon’s hand, trying anything to free herself from his grip. Without her wand, however, and with her connection to Sandra somehow broken, there was little she could do. Yet though her link to her Summoner had been broken, she still remained entrapped by the dragon.
“Ah, but how to finish you off?” Plagueis continued. “Simply crushing you in my grip would be too simple, and I already incinerated the Exemplar. Eating you would be far too… displeasing for my palette. Hmm… what to do for you?”
“S-Stop it! Let me go, you egomaniac!” Lux screamed as she continued to beat uselessly on the dragon’s fingers. A second later, she shrieked in pain as Plagueis’ grip tightened, nearly crushing the life out of her.
With a brief laugh, Plagueis said, “Now there’s an idea. Yeessss…”
Lux’s eyes shot wide open, realizing the dragon’s play on her choice of words as Plagueis turned his claw, forcing her to look downward. Vertigo set in quickly as Lux saw just how high off the ground she was – at least 40 or so stories up!
“I haven’t done that one since I snapped that angel’s wings in my teeth!” Plagueis added. “Let’s see just how long it takes for you to hit the ground!”
Lux screamed louder than she had ever done before as Plagueis released his grip on her, sending her plummeting earthward. Even as the wind howled in her ears, she could still hear the dragon’s tyrannical laughter as he watched her fall.
Lux shut her eyes as she descended rapidly toward the trees, hoping the end would be quick for her.
The raging winds suddenly stopped. The cold chill that had all but overtaken her since Plagueis had first attacked her and Jarvan was replaced by warmth. And even through her shut eyelids, light shone through where there had been darkness.
“I’ve got you, Lux…” said a familiar voice.
Slowly, Lux’s eyes opened. As they did, tears flooded out as her blue eyes met Leona’s amber eyes. She was smiling warmly.
As Leona gently floated toward the ground, the magic of her holy armor slowing her fall, she gently cradled Lux in her arms, holding her by the legs and shoulders like a bride. Before they even touched down, Lux burst into sobs as she buried her face in Leona’s shoulder, crying herself senseless from the mere notion of safety.
“L-Leona…! I-I’m s-so sorry! I–” bawled Lux.
“It’s alright, Lux…” Leona said softly. “You’re safe now. I will protect you.”
As Lux continued to cry in her arms, Leona turned her gaze skyward as a ferocious roar ripped through Summoner’s Rift. His mouth ablaze with dark fire, Plagueis growled furiously at the sight of the Solari paladin.
“At last, you come!” Plagueis shouted. “Luft di uznahgaar nahkriin, Radiant Dawn!!!”
With a deafening roar, Plagueis dived straight for Leona and Lux.
Chapter 10 – Confrontation
Leona gripped Lux tightly as she watched Plagueis dive toward the two of them. Flames could be seen almost bursting from his fangs, barely containing the dragon’s fury. The sky above rumbled with the sound of thunder, but without a flash of lightning.
Flames leapt from Plagueis’ maw and careened at the Solari Paladin, whose shield spread as Leona was surrounded by the light of the sun. The dark flames engulfed the holy barrier as Leona steeled herself, determined not to let the dragon’s fire breach her defense. Within her grip, she heard Lux scream in terror as she huddled close to Leona for protection.
The flames receded as Leona’s aura faded. Quickly she turned to watch as Plagueis pulled up from his dive, knowing it would only take moments for him to strafe them again. She could not fight him while Lux was so defenseless, and knew that she could not leave the girl on her own so badly injured.
There was only one option: escape.
“Hold onto me, Lux, and don’t let go!” said Leona, briefly looking down as Lux nodded her head.
As Plagueis roared in the skies, Leona deftly lifted Lux onto her back and ran for the forest, the blonde’s arms wrapped tightly around the redhead’s neck. The paladin weaved gracefully through the trees as a roaring wave of dark fire swept down from above, scorching the forest only a few meters to Leona’s right. Trees and foliage burned as heat and ash struck out at Leona’s eyes.
Leona veered left as the flames were followed by the sound of breaking trees and branches. A decaying claw raked through the treetops above as Plagueis pulled out of another dive, slicing through the thick branches effortlessly and sending burning fragments of wood and bark raining down at the two women. Lux yelped as a thick burning branch landed only a few meters in front of Leona, forcing her to dash left again to avoid it.
“Face me, Nivahriin Solari!” Plagueis bellowed angrily, spewing fire from his maw at the sky as he turned for another strafe.
As Plagueis released another earsplitting roar, Lux continued to cringe in fear as she held onto Leona for dear life. This was not like facing Fiddlesticks or Nocturne, whose powers of fear were renowned in the League of Legends. Plagueis’ very presence was almost enough to make Lux panic, even with Leona protecting her. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before.
Burning trees and ash continued to fall around her. Leona knew she had to get out of the forest, or Plagueis would bury them alive. Smoke from the fires clouded her vision and stifled her breath, but in the chaos, she made out an opening. Running and dodging through the debris falling around her, Leona made a mad dash for the exit, moments later entering the southern stream of Summoner’s Rift. The air cleared as she entered the lower elevation, and a relieving cool sensation welcomed the two women as they moved away from the burning forest behind them.
But almost as swiftly as they were met with a reprieve, they were met by continued strife. The ground quaked as Plagueis landed before them, his snarl greeting them with bared fangs.
Leona’s response was fluid and instant. With her shield arm, she shoved Lux back with her elbow, causing the girl to lose her grip and shriek as she was knocked to the ground behind the paladin. As the dragon’s fangs rushed forward to crush her Leona met the dragon’s maw with her golden sword, slashing into the dragon’s jaw with a loud shout. Plagueis howled in pain as the sacred blade burned at his flesh, his attack thwarted, but only briefly.
The dragon swept the back of his right claw at Leona, forcing her to block. Her shield met the blow, which sent her sliding back through sheer force, her boots dragging lines in the sand, but her stance remaining.
Leona staggered for a brief moment. In the instant that the dragon’s claw had struck her shield, she felt her body go numb from the force of the blow. Now her bones and muscles shook, not from fear, but from pain.
The dragon’s assault was relentless, bringing his head level with the ground and unleashing another torrent of dark flame. Again it met Leona’s holy aura, but now Leona grimaced as she struggled to hold back the attack. She fell to her left knee as she tried to brace herself, the pressure from the attacks threatening to overwhelm her. Behind her, Lux continued to shake in fear as she huddled behind Leona.
The flames died away, and again Leona’s holy aura vanished. Her breaths became deep and labored. Her body was covered in sweat.
Leona worried that she would not last much longer if this kept up.
“As I suspected,” Plagueis snarled, “you are nothing like your predecessor. No… You are weak, and waste your efforts protecting that pathetic child!”
“You will not touch her, monster!” Leona shouted, rising again to her feet.
Growling with anticipation, Plagueis said, “Lot mey…”
Then, with a swift, powerful beat of his wings, Plagueis again took to the air, hovering over Leona and Lux. The winds sent by Plagueis’ wings brought toxic vapors and burning ash with them, which choked the air around the two women. Leona felt the dark winds sap her strength, but stayed standing.
Without turning, she then said, “Lux, no matter what happens I won’t let him hurt you anymore.”
“L-Leona…” Lux stuttered, touched by the paladin’s words.
“Die now in vain, Solari!” Plagueis roared as his mouth swelled with fire once more.
Leona readied herself again for the dragon’s fire.
An arrow flew from the trees, encased in ice, and careened straight and true into the dragon’s mouth. Before Plagueis could even realize what had hit him, his skull began to freeze. Within seconds, most of the dragon’s head was encased in solid ice. With muffled, angry snarls, Plagueis dropped from the sky and landed with a stumble, thrashing his frozen head around violently in an attempt to break free of his prison.
“Right down his twisted throat…” said a cool, familiar woman’s voice.
Leona and Lux turned in relief to the source of the shot. Standing atop a nearby hill, Ashe brought three more arrows to her frozen bow.
“That one’s for my husband, dragon!” Ashe added fiercely.
“Ashe!” gasped Lux.
“Sorry for the delay. We got here as fast as we could.”
At that moment, Leona turned as Nasus strode toward her and Lux, his staff in hand. Sand billowed around him with each step he made.
“You need not fight this foe alone, Paladin,” said Nasus. “It seems I must repeat this wisdom to you.”
“I… I apologize…” Leona answered. “But I had to save Lux.”
“We know,” said Ashe. “She can be such a pain sometimes.”
“Wh-What?! Hey!” Lux snapped indignantly.
Before anyone could speak further, the sound of cracking ice caught the group’s attention. The frozen prison around Plagueis’ maw began to crack as the dragon’s fangs crushed down on the ice.
Drawing her bow, Ashe said, “Get her to safety. We’ll keep big and gruesome busy.”
“Do not tarry, Leona,” said Nasus.
“I understand,” said Leona. “Please, don’t get yourselves killed. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Both Ashe and Nasus nodded as they turned back to Plagueis. Scooping Lux back onto her shoulders, Leona ran for the safety of the southern lane.
Moments later, the ice that filled Plagueis’ maw shattered as his teeth crunched down. The dragon indignantly spat out the remaining fragments of ice as sputtering flames left his mouth. As the ice at his feet melted, the flames within his mouth reignited, and billowed in between his fangs.
“The Solari continues to flee. Nikriin, I will finish her yet! But first, I will deal with the two of you. Yeessss…”
“Do not be so confident of your victory, Destroyer,” said Nasus. “Death comes for us all, and on this day, it comes for you.”
“You believe I can be defeated, Curator of the Sands? Folaas Vahzen! Not even Death shall save you from me! No!”
“Bring it on, gruesome,” Ashe snapped confidently.
Plagueis spread his wings as Ashe released a volley of arrows, while Nasus struck the ground with a fist to send a wave of spiritual fire toward him. The dragon’s flame streamed at the Frost Archer’s arrows.
“It should be safe here,” said Leona as she set Lux down, resting her against a large, smooth rock. “Are you alright? Is anything else–”
“No, I–I’m okay…” Lux answered sheepishly.
Leona smiled with relief as she gently nursed Lux’s cheek. Hopefully Plagueis would not come looking for her before she managed to recall back to the blue base.
The sounds of battle to the north brought about Leona’s attention. She turned to see Plagueis hovering over the river as arrows of ice flew at him, most shattering on impact with his black scales. The dragon retaliated with another stream of dark fire.
“Leona, Ashe and Nasus cannot hold out forever,” Montrose’s voice echoed. “You must get back to them immediately.”
“I know, I know. But Lux–”
“She will be alright. I’m having one of the apprentices take Sandra’s place. But you must focus on the battle if we are to win.”
Standing once more to collect her shield and sword, Leona briefly turned to Lux as the girl said, “Bring him down for me, would you?”
Leona nodded, warmed by the sight of Lux’s smiling face.
Then, all of a sudden, Lux’s smile vanished, replaced by fear.
“Leona, behind you!”
It was too late for Leona to react as several undead hands grabbed at her from behind, joined by droning dead voices. Frantically, Leona attempted to slash away at the ghouls, but there were simply too many, with more sprouting beneath her feet. Her arms and legs in their grasp, Leona screamed as she was pinned to the ground on her back.
“Lux, RU– MMPH!!!”
A boney hand clasped over Leona’s mouth, muffling her screams. She desperately thrashed in the grip of the ghouls, yet they held strong. Sets of hands on both her sides grasped her sword and shield, pulling the relics away from her as Leona watched in terror.
“Leona! KYAA!!!” Lux shrieked as more of the ghouls emerged from the ground to trap her as well.
As Leona despairingly watched the ghouls ensnare Lux, she heard a hacking cough accompanied by heavy footsteps. Her eyes shifted to see the decaying form of Yorick Mori appear from the brush, his shovel in hand.
“You meddle in the affairs of the Lord of Destruction, Paladin,” said Yorick. “I cannot allow this.”
“Yorick?!” Lux yelped. “You… you’re helping that maniac!?”
“The Dragon of Desolation will reduce this land to ruin, and in the wake of his destruction, he will leave an unending trail of the dead. With so many corpses, I will fulfill my quota, and be free to rest like so many I have laid into the ground.”
“Are you nuts!? Don’t you care about what he’ll do if he wins? Millions will die!”
With a loud cough, Yorick replied, “The living do not concern me, Lady of Luminosity; only the dead. I am not of the living, and only through the burial of the dead shall I join them in eternity.”
Yorick then turned as he hobbled toward Leona, who eyed his shovel nervously. The spade had been sharpened considerably, and Yorick was very strong for his size. The ghouls, though keeping their grip, parted as Yorick approached, raising the shovel over Leona’s chest.
“You will add to my quota, Radiant Dawn.”
“LEONA!!!” Lux screamed.
But just as Leona shut her eyes tightly, expecting the end, she heard a fell shrieking from the ghouls. The ones gripping her arms and legs suddenly released their grip.
Opening her eyes, she watched as the ghouls screamed in agony as innumerable magical knives emerged from thin air, each shooting like a dart into the many ghouls. The undead minions screeched as the ground swallowed them, the knives vanishing as they did.
Yorick was left utterly confused, turning his gaze all about in an attempt to find the source of the attack. As he did, a new volley of magic knives appeared and thrust into Yorick’s body. The Gravedigger howled in agony as the mystical blades dug into his skin, thrashing about wildly as they skewered him.
Then, Leona saw a single, much more intricate knife dart out from the shadows, this one digging directly into Yorick’s throat. As it did, Yorick’s thrashing ended, replaced by a feeble gagging as the other knives vanished. Only the final knife remained as Yorick slumped over and breathed his last before blue light took him.
Leona gasped in relief as she pushed herself up. Immediately she turned to Lux again; the girl was shaken up, but unharmed.
“Naughty, naughty Yorick Mori…” said a sly voice. “I knew he couldn’t be trusted.”
Leona’s eyes narrowed as the lithe form of Leblanc waltzed out of the shadows, absentmindedly gazing at the crystals floating over her staff.
“Then again… lying’s about 95% of what I do.”
“I should’ve guessed it was you,” Lux said icily. “Illusory knives? Even an amateur mage would be able to see through that.”
“Then I suppose I’m fortunate that our dear Gravedigger decided to sever his connection to his Summoner. He’s never been that bright when someone’s not speaking in his head.”
Gripping her sword as she stood, Leona asked, “Why did you save us?”
“Hmm? Oh, that.” With a grin, Leblanc answered, “Let’s just say that Jericho wants to see you win, my dear Leona.”
“Swain?” said Lux. “What does he have to gain from this?”
“Now, now, little Lux, mustn’t give away all our secrets.”
At that moment, the three heard the echoing roar of a dragon, and turned to the sound. From their place, Plagueis could not be seen, yet Leona knew he still had to be at the river. She prayed Ashe and Nasus were still there as well.
“Looks like our reigning ‘Lord of Destruction’ is having a ball,” said Leblanc. “You’d best get going. I’ll keep an eye on your little girlfriend.”
“Wh-WHAT!?” Lux yelped, her cheeks turning red as Leblanc winked at her.
“Leave her with you?” asked Leona. “Why should I trust you? Your very nature is lies and deceit!”
“True… but consider this within the 5% of the time that I’m NOT lying. Besides, you don’t have much of a choice. At the rate you’re going, the Ice Queen and that dog won’t be around for much longer.”
Leona scowled at this. Leblanc was right. There was no time to waste.
“If you hurt her, all of Noxus will not stop me from bringing you to justice, Deceiver!”
With that Leona turned away and left the area, her shield and sword in hand. Lux watched her go until she was out of eyesight.
“My, my… she’s scary when she wants to be,” Leblanc said teasingly to Lux.
“She’d live up to that threat, you know,” Lux snapped.
“I know she would.”
Ashe ducked behind a boulder as a wave of dark fire surged toward her, narrowly avoiding being incinerated. The intense heat had forced her to lower her hood, letting her white hair cascade messily over her shoulders as soot and sweat covered her face. Her skin sported several minor burns, despite that the dragon’s flames had not touched her.
As the flames stopped, Ashe readied another trio of arrows as she swung out from behind her cover, quickly taking aim at the dragon’s head before firing. Each arrow struck the dragon, but only one embedded into Plagueis’ neck, the other two shattering as they struck his scales. Plagueis snarled angrily from the pain, but the arrow did little to slow him. Numerous other frozen arrows had dug into the dragon’s flesh, though a few had melted from the intense heat.
As Ashe readied another volley, Plagueis scoffed as he said, “I tire of your feeble attempts, Fo Ronaan.”
Ashe responded with another volley of arrows. This time, Plagueis swung a claw at the projectiles, smashing them to pieces as they struck the back of his decaying hand.
With a deafening boom, a blast of pure force shot from Plagueis’ maw right at Ashe. Instinctively the archer dashed away, narrowly avoiding a direct hit. The shockwave exploded as it impacted with the ground, and Ashe screamed as she was blown away with rocks and debris. Violently she tumbled down the hillside, landing in a battered heap along the shore of the river.
As Ashe lay on the shore, barely conscious, the ground shook as Plagueis landed.
“A fitting end for one so weak. Yeessss…”
Plagueis moved his fangs over Ashe, prepared to crush her in his maw. As he lurched forward to strike, he was met by the head of a mystic staff. The dragon roared in pain as Nasus landed a second blow to his head, causing Plagueis to stagger backward.
“Do not count your victory so soon, Destroyer,” said Nasus.
The guardian then slammed his fist to the ground, sending another wave of spiritual fire through the earth. The flames engulfed Plagueis’ body as they struck him, to which Plagueis snarled with rage. As the dragon readied his flames again, Nasus charged forward as sand began to swirl violently around him. Stone began to collect over the guardian’s yellow armor, increasing his size considerably so that it compared with his foe.
With a ferocious snarl, Nasus struck again with his staff, delivering a powerful blow to Plagueis’ chest, followed by a blow to the dragon’s neck. Plagueis’ flames surged skyward, thrown off course by Nasus’ attack. Furiously, the dragon retaliated with a slash of his claws, raking across the guardian’s chest. Nasus met a second slash with his staff, deflecting the strike as sand battered at Plagueis’ decaying body. Nasus countered, catching Plagueis in his right shoulder and knocking the dragon back a short distance.
As the dragon recovered from the blow, Nasus stretched out a hand toward Plagueis, casting an ancient spell. Dark energy left the guardian’s hand and engulfed the dragon.
“The sands of time will be your undoing, dragon…” Nasus said coolly as his spell enveloped Plagueis.
For a moment, Plagueis’ body shook from the spell… or so Nasus thought.
Before the guardian could react, Plagueis turned back to him, his mouth ablaze, and released a ball of dark fire that struck Nasus directly. Nasus was blown back by the blast, and staggered on one knee as the flames scorched his body.
Nasus cursed under his breath. The Wither spell had had no effect on the undead dragon. It was strange, because the spell would work on the dragons created by the Summoners. Plagueis’ undead nature must have given him immunity to such magic.
Laughing tyrannically, Plagueis said, “You believe I am vulnerable to the effects of age, Curator? Fool… Your magic is powerless against the immortal dov…”
Plagueis released another wave of fire, sending Nasus kneeling as he attempted to withstand the attack. The guardian’s shroud of sand began to disperse from the punishment.
“You claim to know so much of dinok, death, guardian, but it seems I must educate you. And my lessons… elect the way of PAIN!”
With his last word, Plagueis spread his wings and rushed forward, smashing directly into Nasus and driving him into a hillside. A moment passed before Plagueis flew out of the dust and hovered above the cloud of sand. The dust cleared, and Nasus lay in a pile of rocks, reverted to his normal form, and struggling to recover.
“Any further questions, Curator?”
“Turn, Plagueis!” shouted a woman’s voice.
Snarling, Plagueis turned to Leona, who stood below with her sword and shield ready. His maw curved in an evil grin as he landed.
“So you are finished with fleeing, Solari? Your allies are dust! Yes! Now it is between you and I.”
Leona said nothing as she assumed her stance, waiting for the dragon’s next move. Light surrounded her faintly as Plagueis slowly slinked toward her on all fours.
“I have bested all that this so-called ‘League of Legends’ has sent to challenge me. Time and again, I have shown the pitiful mortals of Valoran that I am supreme above all. And now… now, I will shatter the last hope of your world, when I feast upon your remains. Yeeessssss…”
“Then come and get me, Plagueis…” Leona answered with uncharacteristic venom in her tone.
“Since you insist…”
Roaring, Plagueis charged forward, breathing fire at Leona. The paladin’s shield opened as sunlight surrounded her, deflecting the dark flames. As the fire receded, Leona leapt back as Plagueis swung a claw from above down at her, attempting to crush her. A second claw slashed from the side, forcing Leona to dodge again. The decaying claws of the dragon continued to slash at the paladin, putting her on the defensive.
Then, to her surprise, Plagueis snapped forward with his fangs. Leona barely deflected the attack with her shield, staggering back from the impact. Following up the movement, Plagueis swung swiftly around, his tail smashing into Leona. She screamed as she was knocked to the ground by the blow, several meters away.
"Him hinde pah liiv, Solari! Zu'u hin daan!"
Leona grimaced as she regained her footing, her body still shaking with pain as Plagueis turned back to her. The dragon dwarfed her in size and could easily crush her with a single blow. She could not afford to defend for so long.
Leona shouted as she dashed forward, dodging another strike from Plagueis’ claw and retaliating with a slash to the dragon’s wrist. Plagueis howled as he reared back his wounded limb, the cut failing to regenerate. Hissing with anger, Plagueis swung his other claw at the ground forcefully, shaking the earth and causing Leona to lose her balance for an instant. Plagueis’ head rushed forward to follow up, but Leona deftly leapt over the strike and thrust into the dragon’s neck. Her blade pierced the dragon’s black scales and dug into the dragon’s flesh. Plagueis thrashed his head about as he roared in pain, trying to throw Leona off. Her sword jarred loose by the dragon's thrashing, Leona slashed as best she could at the dragon's hide, scarring it further. A few seconds later, Leona yelped as she was sent flying away, but landed on her feet several meters from the dragon.
Leona watched as Plagueis clutched at the wounds in his neck, black dragon’s blood leaking from the breach. The look on the dragon’s face was of utter hatred of her, his accumulated wounds clearly having an effect on him.
“You will pay for that, Solari. Yeessss…”
The dragon spread his wings as he lifted off the ground. Leona shouted as she raised her blade to the sky, knowing she could not allow Plagueis to take to the air. The power of the sun would bring him to the ground.
To Leona’s horror, nothing happened.
Frantically she tried again. No ray of light from above came to smite the dragon and knock him from the sky.
Her eyes shot wide open as Plagueis’ laughter filled her ears. She turned to look up at the dragon’s leering visage, dread written across her face.
It was then that she fully realized them: the clouds above, booming with thunder, but without lightning. They were black as coal, thick as stone, and covered the entire sky above Summoner’s Rift.
She could not make out even a single ray of sunlight.
“Now you understand, Radiant Dawn?” Plagueis hissed. “Did you honestly believe I was idle during my time above? No… I was ensuring my victory. No light of the sun can breach the shroud I have woven in the skies above!”
Leona did her best not to show her terror. But it was already too late; fear began to dominate her at the horrid realization that she was cut off from the source of her power. The aura of light around her flickered as it began to lose power. Without the sun to provide her with its strength, her power was beginning to fade.
“And make no mistake, Solari. I do not intend to let this advantage go to waste. No…”
Leona stepped back anxiously as Plagueis slowly hovered toward her, just barely off the ground. His piercing golden eyes had never looked more terrifying than they did now.
“Yeessss… Zofaas Vahdin… I can sense your fear. I underestimated your predecessor over a thousand years ago when I fell to his power. I will not make the same mistake twice.”
A ball of flame immediately left Plagueis’ maw as he finished, exploding as it impacted in front of Leona. She screamed as she was blown back, tumbling across the shoreline.
The ground quaked as Plagueis landed, while Leona’s body shook as she stood back up.
“Your Summoners believe I will never be free from my prison? They believe they can contain my power? Pahlok! Such arrogance! They know nothing of power! I have only shown them a mere taste! And now you will bear witness to true power… as you die!”
The dragon spread his decaying wings as dark power crackled along his body.
“Wuld… Ved Daan!”
A boom of thunder resounded from Plagueis as his body was suddenly surrounded by a swirling vortex of dark magic. Debris and foliage flew from the ground and crumbled as they were drawn into the vacuum-like spell.
Leona shrieked as she dug her blade into the ground, trying to use it to anchor herself. But this merely caused her to drag her heels and the blade’s tip across the ground as she was pulled toward the dragon.
In terror, Leona was drawn closer and closer to Plagueis, his tyrannical laughter echoing all across Summoner’s Rift.
Chapter 11 – Vanquish (NEW!!!)
Resting against a large stone, Lux grunted in discomfort as she gently handled her broken ankle. Unfortunately, she had been unable to remove her silver boots, meaning she could not properly assess the injury. She regretted having dropped her wand; the task of mending her leg would be so much easier with it.
"I wouldn't keep touching that if I were you," said Leblanc, who stood leaning against a nearby tree. "You might get it infected."
The remark earned her a sharp glance from Lux, to which Leblanc smirked. Lux hated having to rely on the Noxian illusionist for protection, but as she was right now, she had little choice. She had exhausted almost everything she had trying to fight Plagueis.
Lux shivered as she thought back to the encounter. Never before had she been so afraid of dying, even on a Field of Justice. Everything she had tried had done nothing to Plagueis besides anger him. She had never felt so powerless before.
A terrible roar almost made Lux jump despite her broken ankle. She immediately turned to the sound, but was unable to see the dragon. In the river, however, she made out flashes of dark neon and warm orange light, the dark dragon and the sun's light clashing with one another.
Dread filled Lux's heart. Plagueis was so powerful, and even with help from Ashe and Nasus, she feared for Leona.
"Hmm… I'm glad I'm not down there with Miss Sunshine," said Leblanc. "Big and nasty is quite the handful. I don't envy her."
Leblanc then heard a painful grunt from Lux, and turned absentmindedly to the blonde to see her trying to push herself to her feet. She almost found the sight impressive.
"And just what are you planning, little Crownguard?"
"I have to help her…" said Lux amidst a gasp of pain. "Leona needs me. I–"
"And just how do you intend to do anything? No wand, barely standing, and about half a mile away?"
The realization of her current state hit Lux like a pile of bricks. What could she possibly do to help fight Plagueis? Even if her ankle were not broken, with her mana depleted she would only get in Leona's way.
Lux watched as another clash of light sprung from the river area, and as a gust of wind swept through her hair, the girl's eyes began to shed tears at her sense of helplessness. She fell back against the stone as she slid back to the ground, ignoring the pain in her leg.
"Now isn't that a pitiful sight?" Leblanc mused. "The Lady of Luminosity, broken and without hope? Hmm… too pitiful, even for me."
Clasping her shoulder, Lux continued to cry. As she did, Leblanc silently reached for her back and, from some hidden magical space, pulled a silvery white wand out. It shone with light as the illusionist twiddled the instrument in her hand.
"Perhaps this could make you look a little less pathetic?"
Suddenly realizing what Leblanc had pulled out, Lux made a quick gasp as she stretched out her hand to grab the wand. But as she did, Leblanc drew back the wand with a "tsk tsk".
"Give me my wand, Leblanc!" Lux demanded indignantly.
"That is so cute. Come now, Luxanna. You don't expect me to just give you back your wand, do you? What would you do for me?"
Lux frowned as Leblanc smiled. She was extorting her at a time like this? The very thought of it was infuriating!
"Besides, if I give you this, old scaley over there will tear me in two if he finds out I was helping you. But… it would make things more fun…"
Leblanc's hand released the wand, which floated gently toward Lux. Lux gingerly grasped the wand, keeping her eyes on the sorceress, watching for any moves she made.
As Lux grabbed the wand, Leblanc continued, "and I could always call in a favor sometime in the future, right? Just something to keep in mind, little Crownguard."
Leblanc made a haughty chuckle as she turned away and strode off into the forest, vanishing as she passed behind a thin tree.
Lux was left with a disconcerted look on her face, but soon turned back to her wand, which began to glow more brightly as she held it. She then turned to the battle at the river, still unable to see the combatants. Even though she now had her wand, Lux knew it would take too long for her to heal her wounds and make her way back to the battle.
Her mind raced, desperate to find some way to help Leona.
"Hang on, Leona… I'll think of something."
Leona's arms and legs screamed in pain almost as much as she herself did, fighting with all her strength against the dark spell of the undead dragon. Try as she might, slowly but surely she was drawn closer and closer by the vortex toward Plagueis, who snarled in anticipation.
"It is inevitable, Solari… Yeessss…" said Plagueis. "Dir nu ahrk nahkip suleyki."
Leona watched the dragon as she edged ever closer to the tyrant's waiting fangs. Each of the dragon's teeth was sharp as a blade, and many dripped deadly venom. An occasional flicker of dark flames could be seen through the gaps in the rows of teeth.
"Drown in despair!"
"Never!" Leona shouted.
Leona ripped her blade from the ground and leapt forward. With a valiant howl, Leona swung her shield, bathed in light, at the dragon's head. As the shield made contact, it released a brilliant burst of sunlight, to which Plagueis reeled back, blinded and roaring in pain. The dark power that had been collecting around Plagueis suddenly burst, sending Leona back with a yelp.
As Leona tried to stay standing, winded by the dark blast, she watched in surprise as Plagueis' body began to exhume thick clouds of dark smoke. As the smoke quickly swept over her, Leona quickly realized what it was as she began to cough on the air: a miasma. Her arms and legs suddenly went numb, while her insides burned as if on fire. Leona struggled to breathe, but there was no air, only poison. She fought to stay standing.
"Shol kruziik drey ni viik…" snarled Plagueis, his glowing eyes barely visible through the thick black haze. "Aus ahrk liiv."
Leona strained to keep her burning eyes open in the miasma, trying to find her foe in the poisonous smoke. Her vision became a blur as she looked frantically from side to side, the sound of the dragon's thunderous footsteps all around her. The aura of sunlight around her continued to fade, nearly extinguished by the darkness in the skies above.
Her whole body lurched as the back of the decaying dragon's right claw smashed into her, sending her careening into a dirt wall. Leona's shield and sword flew from her grasp, clattering gracelessly to the ground. The impact against the wall cracked her ribs and drove precious air from Leona's lungs. The fading aura of light that surrounded her vanished.
Then, before she could even fall over, the dragon's hand enclosed viciously around her, threatening to crush her in its grip. Leona frantically gasped for air as she was brought before Plagueis' glowing eyes.
Despite sporting a new burn across his face from Leona's previous blow, the look on Plagueis' face was one of pure sadistic malice. His golden eyes stared directly into Leona's, and in them she saw herself, her armor broken, her light gone, and her eyes in utter panic.
"You are beaten, Radiant Dawn. You have nothing. Bolog fah aaz! Beg for death! SCREAM FOR ME!!!"
Leona let loose the loudest scream of terror she could muster as the dragon's claw enclosed ever tighter around her body, on the verge of crushing her. Tears fell from her eyes as her lungs gave out, asphyxiation overtaking her.
"Everyone… I'm sorry…" were Leona's last thoughts as she began to pass out.
Plagueis' grin widened as he watched Leona's head slump over.
"And so it ends, Solari… What?!"
Plagueis suddenly reeled in shock as his prey became surrounded by light. Before he could react to this, the dragon howled in agony as the light seared his hand, yet he was unable to release his grip upon Leona. White flames of holy magic began to engulf his claw, burning away at his undead flesh, but leaving the Solari paladin untouched. Plagueis frantically shook his claw, trying to release his forced-grip on his victim. Soon, his hand released Leona, sending her flying onto the shores of the river, where she lay motionless.
Amidst his roars of pain as his hand burned, Plagueis shouted, "Tahrohdiis Solari! What have you done!? What twisted power is this!?"
The white flames continued to engulf the dragon's hand and continued up his arm, his throes doing nothing to slow them from consuming his flesh. Along with the dragon's flesh, the miasma around him began to disperse, burning away to the light. Within moments, the dragon's claw had been reduced to bone, and much of the flesh and scales of his arm burned away. Soon, the flames died away, leaving Plagueis shaking with hatred as he held his burned limb.
"My teeth to your neck, Solari!"
Flames built in Plagueis' mouth as he turned back to Leona, who lay far from his reach, unable to move. With a roar, the dragon sent a stream of fire toward his motionless foe.
The flames met a glowing golden barrier a mere instant before reaching Leona. But this shield did not originate from the paladin.
Plagueis hissed furiously as the flames cleared, and Jarvan IV stood before Leona. The prince grimaced as he said, "Attacking an unconscious maiden, beast? How dastardly."
"You only delay the inevitable, Exemplar. I have slain you once already, and I only need do so again! A simple task! Yes!"
"Don't be so sure of that, black breath!" said a woman's voice, followed by a trio of frozen arrows.
Plagueis growled angrily as two of the arrows were embedded in his upper neck, while the third broke on scales. The dragon turned to see Ashe, her white hair disheveled around her shoulders, draw another three arrows. Next to her Nasus strode forward and swung his hand to the ground, sending a wave of spiritual fire through the earth to surround Plagueis from below.
"The odds turn against you, Dragon of Desolation," said Nasus. "Your fear is palpable."
"Fear? FEAR!? Faasnu! I do not fear you mortals! NO! It is you who will tremble at my voice! DIE!"
Plagueis' flames streamed at Ashe and Nasus, prompting the two to dive sideways to avoid the attack. Immediately afterward, Plagueis howled again in pain as a javelin struck his back, breaching his scales with ease. The dragon turned back to Jarvan and with a quick 'Fus…' sent a blast of pure force at the prince. Jarvan leapt away from the force blast, which exploded as it struck the ground. As Jarvan landed, he braced as the dragon's tail lashed at him, striking him away.
"Pahlok joorre! Hin kah fen kos bonaar!"
Plagueis spread his wings, preparing to take to the air. But before he could take flight, an arrow of ice struck the dragon's left wing, encasing it in a frozen shell. Plagueis roared as he sent a ball of dark fire at Ashe in retaliation, but the archer swiftly evaded the blast.
Readying more arrows, Ashe quickly glanced at Nasus, whose mind was now connected to hers. Telepathically, she said, "This isn't getting us anywhere. I've only got one enchanted arrow left, and my normal arrows are barely doing anything."
"The dragon can only be vanquished by the power of the Radiant Dawn. Summoner Montrose is attempting to revive her; we must keep the dragon distracted."
"Great… I love being a decoy…"
Ashe released another volley as Jarvan leapt up onto Plagueis' back, stabbing into the dragon's shoulder with his lance. Plagueis roared as he shook wildly, trying to throw Jarvan off while Nasus charged in, his staff at the ready.
Leona lay next to the flowing river of Summoner's Rift, her body completely numb and her eyes heavy. Her blurred vision only showed the sky, black and thick with clouds. Her breath was short and labored, her mind was a haze.
Her eyes slowly began to close.
"Leona? Leona! Can you hear me?" said a distorted voice in her mind.
"Summoner… I… I'm so tired… I just want to…"
"No, Leona! Do not shut your eyes. If you do, all will be lost."
"But I… I can't… I can't defeat him…"
"Leona, you must not lose hope! I cannot revive you if our connection is severed! Leona!"
Leona's sight continued to blur as her eyes came nearer and nearer to closing.
Jarvan jumped back to avoid a crushing blow from the dragon's claw, but was unable to move quickly enough before the back of the same claw bashed into him. The prince stumbled as he landed and grimaced. They had truly angered Plagueis now.
Immediately after bashing away Jarvan, Plagueis turned to Nasus, who swung his staff down at the dragon's side. The dragon's right wing swung before the blow, catching the strike on hard scales. The dragon countered with a quick ball of fire from his maw, striking Nasus and knocking the guardian to the ground. From behind Nasus, two more arrows of ice flew forth, but the dragon's wing again intercepted the attack, defeating it.
Rearing his head back, Plagueis let loose an earsplitting roar, the very sound of the shout knocking Jarvan and Ashe off balance. The two suddenly found themselves breaking out in a cold sweat, suddenly fearing the dragon. Their nerve won out in the end, as the two royals readied themselves again for battle, Nasus quickly joining them.
"Any ideas?" Ashe said to Jarvan. The lack of a response did not give her confidence.
Smashing his remaining good claw upon the ground, Plagueis roared, "Pahlok joorre! You and your puny Summoners cannot defeat me! Ni viik… I am Plagueis! I am your doom! Unslaad krosis! Your hopes lie in ruin! And now you, the Radiant Dawn, and all of Summoner's Rift will burn beneath the shadow of my wings!"
The remaining ice surrounding Plagueis' left wing shattered as he spread both wide, and immediately he took to the sky, out of the reach of Nasus and Jarvan. Ashe fired another volley of arrows, but the wind from the dragon's wing beats blew them away. Plagueis hovered high above Summoner's Rift as power crackled around his scarred and decaying body.
Yol! Strun!! Lok!!!
Thunder boomed to Plagueis' words. The blackened sky suddenly swirled and turned to crimson. The dragon's roar deafened all those in Summoner's Rift as the sky became alight with fire. The warriors below watched in horror as through the clouds, flame and stone came raining down toward the land.
Reacting immediately, Jarvan shouted, "Seek shelter, now!"
As the first of the meteors crashed down, spreading fire and destruction, Plagueis' tyrannical voice echoed in laughter as the Champions below him ran desperately for cover. But as Ashe and Nasus ran for the cover of an array of rocks, Ashe spun around as she realized that Jarvan was not with them.
The prince instead made a daring dash for Leona, who lay motionless as devastation closed around her. Barely avoiding being smashed by a meteorite, Jarvan swiftly reached the red-haired paladin and scooped her into his arms.
"Paladin Leona? Paladin Leona, answer me!" shouted Jarvan.
Leona could see Jarvan before her, and heard his voice, but she could not discern meaning. It was all muffled, distorted, and yet desperate.
She moaned weakly as she felt her body swiftly carried away, the prince risking everything to bring her to safety. Heat and ash swept across them as Jarvan ran for the cover of the rocks, reaching them through sheer superhuman effort. He settled the paladin down as he took hold of his lance again, and began shouting orders to the other Champions.
Leona's blurry eyes looked again skyward. Fire and chaos had joined with the black clouds above, raining down upon the land to reduce it to ashes. The forests burned, the river boiled, sand burned to glass, and the voice of tyranny filled the air.
She knew it was over. Everything was lost. Her eyes began to shut.
"I'm… sorry… everyone… I… have…"
Light flooded the narrow slits of her vision, white and pure.
Her eyes began to open again, her head instinctively turning to the source of the light. It was distant, but bright as a star in the night sky.
And it was growing ever brighter.
Floating atop the edge of a cliff, Lux shimmered as she channeled her magic, runic circles spiraling in patterns, her wand floating before her. It was a spell she had used time and again, but never to this magnitude.
Her instructors had always warned her about doing something like this, that it could have dire consequences. With no Summoner to bind her spirit, the risk she was taking could be potentially fatal.
But she had no choice; it was the last shot she had, and she had to make it count.
Pain wracked her body as she squeezed every bit of mana she could muster into the spell. Every fiber of her being felt as though it were being torn apart, but she continued to chant her spell. Her eyes shone a blinding white, yet she could clearly see her target.
"Light a fire in this reactor. Drink the earth, reveal the oceans, recite this illusion sonorously. Illuminate, Valoran, stare upon all creation, expose the end of all things. As though you yearn for all the stars in the sky. Light a great white fire in this reactor!"
The spell began to peak as Lux spread her arms, her wand spinning furiously. Blinding light shone from her spell, lighting the sky and all of Summoner's Rift.
"This is for you… LEONA!"
The image of Leona filled Lux's mind as she shouted.
"FINAL SPARK INFINITY!!!!!"
The earth shook as a massive beam of light streamed forth from Lux's spell, careening straight at the black dragon soaring above.
Plagueis could only watch in unfamiliar dread as the white ray of light shot toward him, far too fast for him to avoid. Reflexively, the dragon released a stream of fire at the beam of light, but the beam cut through the dark flames effortlessly, continuing on toward its target.
Light engulfed the dragon, who howled in agony as his flesh burned and his scales ripped from his body.
"R-Revak j-jun! N-Nikrinne–"
The dragon's agonized roar signaled the end of the dragon's spell, as the skies returned to their former darkness. The light of Lux's spell soon ended as the beam vanished, and from the skies she watched as the dark form of Plagueis fell. Gracelessly, the dragon plummeted to the earth below, his impact as devastating to Summoner's Rift as the meteors he had called forth.
Lux's wand clattered to the ground. Weakness pervaded her very soul. She felt so cold. It was the chill of death, her very life force having been used to power her spell. It was so different, so unlike when she usually died on the Fields of Justice.
Could this be what it felt like to truly die?
But as her body began to fade away, Lux could only think of Leona.
"I-I'm sorry… L-Leona…"
Leona's weary eyes watched as Lux's body began to disperse in small shards of light. She had seen the whole spectacle, and now was forced to witness its consequence. The blonde girl's eyes were shut, and clearly she was in pain.
Leona's mind filled with despair; she knew what Lux had done. She knew the terrible price Lux was paying.
"L-Lux? Lux, no… Please…"
As her body faded into nothingness, Lux turned her gaze to Leona, somehow aware of her position, and smiled.
"Don't give up… Leona…"
Seconds later, the Lady of Luminosity had disappeared.
Jarvan watched in solemn respect as Lux vanished. Immediately afterward, his gaze turned toward the site where Plagueis had crashed. Dust and smoke flooded the scene, making it impossible to see the dragon's fate from a distance.
He turned to Ashe and Nasus and said, "Queen Ashe, Curator Nasus, follow me. We must confirm whether or not the dragon still lives."
"I never knew that girl could wield so much power…" said Ashe.
"To wield great power has great consequence, Frost Archer," Nasus interjected. "She may have paid a terrible cost for her actions."
"What do you mean?"
"Now is not the time for such questions. We must ensure that her efforts were not in vain."
"You're right. Let's go."
Following Jarvan as he ran for the impact site, Ashe and Nasus moved quickly to keep pace with the Exemplar. It took them a mere moment to reach the scar that had resulted from the dragon's crash landing. Anything that had been alive there before was now either burning or torn apart. Pieces of rotting dragon flesh littered the area.
"Over there," said Ashe, pointing toward a dense cloud of smog.
Behind the thick veil of smoke, the trio could barely make out the silhouette of a prone dragon's form. It was still as a statue.
For a moment, they thought it was over…
The ground quaked, and dread embraced them once again.
The three Champions steeled themselves as the unmistakable shadow of the Dragon of Desolation rose from behind the veil of smoke. His glowing golden eyes could still be seen through the shroud.
The smoke cleared. The dragon's body was almost entirely burned by the light of Lux's magic. Virtually all of the dragon's black scales had been blown off, revealing his more vulnerable hide in a perpetual state of decay. Various portions of his flesh had been burned away, and black dragon's blood was running in rivers down his sides. The dragon's great wings had been all but burned away, leaving only their skeletal frame fused agonizingly to his back.
But from the dragon's maw, the dark flames still continued to flicker strongly. The impact of the dragon's claw as it slammed against the ground still made the ground quake in fear.
And worst of all, the dragon was more furious than anyone in over a thousand years had ever seen.
"TAHROHDIIS SOLARI!!! FEN DU HIN SILLE!!!"
Jarvan's Golden Aegis formed as the dragon's fire surged toward them.
Leona lay empty on the floor of Summoner's Rift. She was in despair, unable to fathom that Lux was gone. It was not a normal death for the League; she had felt it when she had disappeared. To die in a League match without a Summoner's link was bad enough, but Lux had used her own life force in her last desperate spell.
Deep down, she feared she may have lost Lux for good.
"Lux… why… Why did you have to…"
In her mind, Leona's cries echoed as if they could be heard by all of Runeterra. The voice of her Summoner was drowned out by her anguish.
"Don't give up, Leona…"
Leona's misery vanished as she heard Lux's voice in her head.
"Don't give up…"
Memories of Lux flashed into Leona's mind. Their first meeting, their first battle side by side on Summoner's Rift, the days they would spend together in Demacia…
"Lux… I… I can't quit now…"
…the memory of her teary-eyed request to help in this battle, and of her remaining in the Solarium that night…
"I can't let you down…"
…the image of her beaming smile as she faded away…
"I… I have to… I have to… keep on fighting!"
Light shimmered in Leona's mind as her vision began to clear. She felt a familiar presence enter her thoughts.
"Leona?" said the voice of Summoner Montrose."Thank the gods, we're reconnected. Hold on, I've been authorized to use a modified Revive spell on you. I won't be able to do this a second time, so make it count!"
With that, magic began to pulse around Leona as her body suddenly surged with life. Her eyes shot wide open as warmth filled her. Light surrounded her body as she was magically suspended off the ground, her wounds healing and her tattered armor mending.
Leona gasped for breath as the energy peaked inside of her. The spell ended, dropping Leona to her feet. Her limbs unsteady, Leona fell to her knees as she coughed loudly, a hand to her chest as she greedily gasped for clean air. Never before had a breath of fresh air been so welcome to Leona than at that moment.
A reflection of light off her right gauntlet made Leona briefly squint, but then sudden realization made her eyes open wide: the light was from the sun. Immediately she turned skyward to see Plagueis' dark shroud. But in the shroud, a wide gap had been ripped open, and the sun's light shone through unhindered. Lux's last attack had not only crippled the dragon, but had ruined the shroud he had made in the skies of Summoner's Rift.
The sight of the sun brought a tear to Leona's eyes. Silently, she said, "Lux… thank you…"
Her gaze turned to her golden shield and sword, which lay on the ground far from her. She still had a battle to win. Gracefully she rose to her feet and broke into a sprint, the relics practically flying into her hands as she reached them. They shimmered with light as Leona reclaimed them, the power of the sun returning to them.
But as she grasped them, she winced as she felt pain shoot through her right side. Montrose's spell clearly hadn't healed all of her wounds. Stomaching the pain, Leona stood upright again. Her present state would have to do. There were no more second chances.
She then ran as fast as she could toward the crash site, hoping she would not be too late.
Nasus grimaced as Plagueis' right claw slashed his shoulder, the skeletal limb still proving a dangerous threat. The guardian retaliated with an upward swing of his staff, knocking away the dragon's limb and then bringing the staff down again to strike at the dragon's neck. Plagueis roared in pain as the staff bludgeoned him, while three more of Ashe's arrows struck the dragon's left side, all embedding into his burned flesh.
Jumping back to avoid the dragon's tail, Jarvan grimaced. Without his scales to protect him, the dragon had suddenly become far more vulnerable. And with his wings ruined, Plagueis no longer could fly, removing one of his greatest advantages. But even so harmed, the dragon was not to be trifled with.
The prince hurled another of his javelins into the dragon's left hind leg, causing Plagueis to stumble back on his wounded limb. Seeing the dragon's misstep, Nasus landed another strike at the dragon's chest, eliciting another roar of pain from the beast.
But in that instant, Nasus saw the glint of bloodlust in Plagueis' eyes, and realized too late the dragon's feint.
With a roar for death, Plagueis' maw swung forward like a snake's and his teeth sank into Nasus' neck. The guardian gasped wordlessly as his throat was crushed in the dragon's fangs, his staff dropping to the ground as life left him.
"Nasus!" Ashe shouted out of reflex, though she knew the guardian was doomed.
Crunching down on the guardian's neck, Plagueis shook his head from side to side, brutally shaking the dog like a chew toy. Then, as he felt Nasus' neck snap, Plagueis slammed the guardian's body to the ground. Nasus' limp form vanished in blue light as his soul was spared by his Summoner.
"Dinok saraan, joorre!"
Furiously, Jarvan readied his lance as he charged at the dragon's head, intent on plunging the spinning blades into the dragon's skull.
"Zu'u zok sahrot do naan ko Lein!"
As the prince leaped at the dragon, Plagueis turned his gaze to the Exemplar of Demacia.
As Jarvan came mere inches from Plagueis, the dragon released a blast of force from his maw. Jarvan howled in pain as he was hit at point blank range by the attack, sending him flying away and landing in a heap in the burning treeline.
With only one foe left, Plagueis turned to Ashe, who released another pair of arrows that hit his right shoulder. The dragon ignored the pain as he watched Ashe nock her bow. The look of worry on her face was palpable; she was about to run out of arrows.
"Krongrah fen kos dii mahfaeraak…"
(Continued in next post due to post limit)
Chapter 11 Continued
Plagueis roared as he lunged forward, striking the ground mere inches in front of Ashe. The impact was enough to send her flying back a few feet, dropping her bow and arrows to the ground. As Ashe tried to rise up, she saw the dragon's left claw poised to crush her.
The instant the dragon swung at the archer, a blade of pure sunlight sliced into the dragon's arm. With no scales to protect the dragon's limb, the golden Zenith Blade tore through the decaying flesh and sinew with ease.
Plagueis howled in pure agony as Leona materialized from the light, and her blade took the dragon's limb clean off. The decaying arm crashed to the ground right beside Ashe, narrowing avoiding crushing her under its weight alone.
"That was for my ancestor!" Leona shouted.
As the dragon screeched in agony, Leona yelled at the top of her lungs as she swung her blade around, cleaving into the dragon's chest from below. With no scales guarding him, Plagueis roared as the holy sword tore through his ribcage and internal organs. Blood spilled from the breach, evaporating as it splashed against Leona's golden aura of sunlight.
"That was for the sun!"
With the momentum from her previous strike, Leona leapt up and shouted as she brought her blade down as hard as she could on the dragon's neck, nearly cutting the dragon's head off. More of the dragon's black blood spilled as the paladin's blade left a massive gaping wound in the right side of the dragon's neck.
"And that… was for Lux, you abomination…"
Leona landed before the dragon as the beast's body fell forward, the ground shaking as Plagueis' broken form lay before the Solari heroine. Leona kept her blade ready; the dragon was still alive, albeit barely.
"T-This… cannot be… No… I am… Plagueis! Zu'u… hin… daan…!"
The dragon's eyes were fixed on the red-haired maiden before him, her body surrounded by the light of the sun. As the light began to blind him, the dragon's gaze turned skyward, and to his horror he saw his dark shroud dispersing. No, rather, it had already been dispersed, for a massive hole in the shroud had been made, and the sun shone its brilliance down upon its herald.
"Daar Lein los dii…!"
The dragon writhed in agony as the sun's light intensified and began to burn his body. Leona raised her sword and said, "You have caused enough suffering, monster. Now burn before the light's justice!"
The sun's light concentrated above the dragon as a blast of solar energy came crashing down upon Plagueis' body from above. Leona's Solar Flare set the dragon's body aflame as the black beast screeched in his death throes.
"ZU'U UNSLAAD! ZU'U NIS OBLAAN!"
The dragon's body reared back as it began to disintegrate, bone and flesh crumbling to dust before the light of the sun. Leona maintained her stance, concentrating the sun's full wrath upon her foe.
But as his body burned away, the dragon made a final shout.
REL! VOL! AUS!
Leona's eyes shot wide open as the dragon's body crumbled to dust, and from the ashes a black mass shot toward her, roaring as it took the shape of a dragon's head, its red eyes locked on the paladin. The black form moved too quickly for Leona to react, and she screamed as the dark spirit of Plagueis surged into her body, passing effortlessly through her holy aura.
The light of the sun faded away as Leona convulsed, her sword and shield dropping to the ground as she clutched her sides in pain. Her hands then moved to her head as she threw her head back, her eyes turning black as night, and screamed.
Montrose yelped as dark magic nearly shorted out his mind. He staggered back from the center of the Summoning Chamber as he recoiled from whatever had hit him.
"Summoner Montrose, are you alright?" asked the healer on station.
"Plagueis is attempting to corrupt Leona from within. His possession of Leona's body severed our link, and almost took me with it. Making a backup link to the Summoner Nexus was a fortunate decision…"
"Can't you do anything for the paladin?"
"No… If I were to try and re-establish our link now, I would only end up destroying both our minds. Leona has to defeat Plagueis alone now…"
Montrose grimaced as he turned back to the Summoning Crystal, and witnessed the battle within Leona's mind.
Leona cried in pain as her mind was warped by the invasive spirit within her. She screamed for it to stop, but only received the dragon's tormenting laughter in return.
She fell to her knees, trapped in a black abyss, as the dragon's wispy form encircled her, like a snake constricting its prey.
"Foolish mortal… Did you think I would be defeated so easily? No… You may have destroyed the body of my avatar, but I shall make do with yours! Yeessss…"
"N-Never! I'll never– AAHHHH! G-Get out of my head!"
Plagueis laughed again and said, "You will break to me, Solari. You will bend to my will. And under my thrall, you will destroy all which you hold dear. Yeeessssss…"
Leona continued to scream, the pain wracking her mind becoming unbearable. The dragon's tyrannical laughs echoed in her mind endlessly. She felt as though she were about to die.
"P-Please… someone… help me…"
The dragon's laughter suddenly stopped as Leona felt a warm presence in her mind. In the infinite darkness, she saw a small light, and watched with hope as the light brightened, shining through the darkness.
"W-What is this? Tahrohdiis kiir! You dare challenge me?!"
The black dragon mass swirled to challenge the growing light that approached it. As the mass lunged forward to devour the light, it reared back and screeched in agony as it was burned by the very touch of the light.
Leona watched incredulously as the light continued to make the dragon recoil in fear. She saw an image…
The darkness in her thoughts faded away as hope returned. Leona stood within the darkness as her own body began to shine with light.
"I will never bow to you, beast! You cannot prevail against the light! And you will never rise to threaten the people of Valoran again! NOW BEGONE!!!"
Leona rushed forth at the black mass, her blade materializing in her hand as she lunged at the black dragon's heart. As the sword sank into the black spirit, Plagueis roared in agony as the black mass began to distort.
As light flooded the formerly black abyss, the dark spirit of Plagueis faded away, banished from Leona's mind. And for a brief instant, Leona knew the dragon's pain extended past her mind… even back to his true self in Death's Spire…
Ashe watched in astonishment as Leona shrieked, the light radiating from her body almost blinding the Frost Archer. But through the cracks in her fingers, Ashe saw the dragon's dark spirit expunged from the paladin's body with a roar, evaporating as it was purged.
As Ashe removed her hand to clearly see Leona, the paladin's holy aura vanished, and Leona collapsed to the ground.
A terrible feeling clutched Ashe's gut, and she scrambled over to the paladin to see if she was alright.
"Leona? Paladin Leona, are you alright?" Ashe asked.
Leona barely stirred, but Ashe barely made her out as she said, "It… it's finally over… L-Lux… th-thank you…"
Then everything went black for Leona.
Chapter 12 – Aftermath
Birds chirped and the wind’s breath soothed as Soraka sat in the Solarium, tending to a nearby patient. The weather that day was clear as a bell, and the view of all of Valoran was a sight to behold. Soraka, however, wasn’t focused on the view, and instead on her patient.
The door to the Solarium swung open as a pair of swift footsteps rushed up the stairs. Turning, Soraka met Leona’s eyes, sensing their urgency and worry.
“Soraka, I heard the news,” said Leona. “Is she–”
“Yes, Solari,” said Soraka. “She just woke up. Come and see her.”
Rushing to the bedside, Leona said, “Lux? Lux, a-are you alright?”
Lying under a set of white blankets and sheets, Lux smiled at Leona through weary eyes. The girl looked as though she was barely conscious, but for the past two weeks she had been in a deep comatose state. Her blue eyes were focused on Leona.
“H-Hey, Leona…” Lux said weakly. “D-Did you… get him?”
Leona nodded, bringing a smile to Lux’s face.
“I knew you could do it, Leo. I just knew it.”
Turning to Soraka, Leona asked, “I-Is she–”
“She is still very weak, Paladin Leona,” Soraka answered. “She still requires a great deal of rest.”
“W-What…?” said Lux. “B-But I f-feel fine. I– ooh…” Lux groaned as weakness pervaded her body.
It was then that Leona’s expression of relief suddenly gave way. Her eyes suddenly began to water, and she trembled as she tried to stare Lux in the eye.
“H-How could you…” Leona said weakly.
“Huh…?” Lux then suddenly gasped weakly as Leona pulled her up and wrapped her arms around the girl’s body.
Breaking down in tears, Leona said, “How could you do something so foolish, Lux?!”
“W-What? Leona, what are you–”
“The Summoners told me that you nearly killed yourself with that spell! And not just on Summoner’s Rift, but here as well! What were you thinking?!”
“Do you have any idea how worried I was when I heard of your condition?! Or how afraid I was when they told me you might never awaken?! Lux, y-you… you’re so stupid!”
“You stupid, stupid girl! You could’ve died! I thought I lost you! I… I…” Leona could continue no further, her words giving way to tears and sobs.
Lux suddenly felt her own eyes begin to water as she felt Leona’s heaving sobs. She had never seen Leona like this before, so upset about anything. It tore her up inside to see her like this.
“L-Leona… I… I’m sorry…”
“Y-You f-fool… I-If you had… I j-just… I…”
“Leona, I’m sorry… P-Please, I… I’m sorry… I d-didn’t know…”
Leona barely made out any of Lux’s words, too distraught to comprehend the girl’s apology. Her breaths came in short, yet her cries were long.
Suddenly she felt Lux’s arms around her body, akin to her own grasp. For an instant, Leona stopped weeping, but only an instant.
“Leona… I’m so sorry… I just wanted to help…” said Lux as she too wept.
Leona sniffled as she heard Lux’s apology, realizing how unfair she was being to the girl. Deep down, she was relieved Lux was alive, but could not forgive herself for letting the girl almost perish. In truth, it had only been the intervention of the Summoners that prevented Lux from permanently dying. When she had learned of Lux’s condition, Leona could not help but despair, but now that Lux was awake again…
Leona suddenly gasped in surprise as a pair of hands pushed her and Lux apart, one forcing Lux back into bed before the two joined to force Leona away.
“That is quite enough, Paladin Leona,” Soraka said sternly. “Miss Crownguard needs her rest, and you are not helping.”
“But nothing, Leona!” Soraka snapped, startling Leona with an unusually cross tone. Then, to her further surprise, Leona found herself being pushed toward the exit to the Solarium by the Starchild, unable to resist.
“W-Wait! S-Soraka, let me–”
“She will be safe under my watch, paladin,” Soraka said as she pushed. “But she is not going to recover if you don’t let her sleep, and I must ensure that her condition does not deteriorate because of your emotional display! Now I must insist that you leave her be!”
Now at the entrance to the Solarium with Soraka blocking the way, Leona knew she wasn’t going to get past the Starchild without forcing her way through. However, the paladin had no wish to do such a thing, and knew she would not get to see Lux any longer at that moment.
Defeated, Leona turned and left the Solarium as Soraka turned back to her patient.
Leona stumbled through the halls of the Institute, her face still wet with tears and her breath still stifled by her earlier cries. To her relief, no one took notice of her, or at least no one seemed to care. All around, the Summoners and their aides busily went about their business, arranging upcoming League matches or discussing theories and politics.
None of that mattered to Leona as she sat down on a wooden bench, resting her head in her hands as she lightly continued to sob. All she could think of was Lux, and how it had been her fault she had ended up in her current state. If she had only been stronger, she could have defeated Plagueis like her ancestor had done.
“Sorrow does not befit you, Solari!” said an angry voice.
Leona turned her head to her right just in time to see a Rakkorian rune spear come crashing down into the bench she sat on, the tip breaching the wood a mere inch from her right leg. Around her, a few startled bystanders looked in her direction, but after a moment they returned to their business.
“Neither does such complacency!” said Pantheon.
“What do you want, Pantheon?” Leona asked harshly, her sorrow vanishing in place of a defensive expression.
“What I want?” Pantheon ripped his spear out of the wooden bench and brought it back to his side as he continued, “What I want is for you, Solari, to explain why you have not finished your mission: why you have not slain the true Dragon of Desolation, while he is weakened and vulnerable!”
The Artisan of War then leveled his spear so that its head hovered perilously close to Leona’s neck. Leona did not flinch, despite that a number of people around the two were now watching them nervously.
Staring bravely into Pantheon’s red eyes, Leona answered, “Believe me, Pantheon… I did try.”
It was nearly a week prior that Leona had made her way to Death’s Spire, the blackened mountain lair of Plagueis the Vile. She held her sacred blade and shield in hand, prepared to finish off the monster for good. Her battle against the dragon on Summoner’s Rift, as well as the new barrier that had been erected to contain him, had weakened Plagueis substantially.
Now all that was left was to destroy him.
But now, she faced an unexpected obstacle. Standing before her were four of the League’s Adjudicators, barring her entry into the dragon’s den.
“I am sorry, Paladin Leona,” said the captain of the guards, “but we have orders from the High Council not to let anyone inside without proper approval.”
“What? You cannot be serious!” Leona said in bewilderment. “The dragon has been weakened, has he not? He must be finished!”
“I’m sorry, but we were given specific instructions, Paladin. Now please, turn around and go back from where you came.”
“I can’t do that. I swore I would slay Plagueis and I shall.”
Leona strode forward to pass by the guards, but stopped in surprise as the Adjudicators began to draw their swords.
“This is your last warning, Paladin,” said the captain. “By order of the High Council of the Institute of War, none may approach the Dragon of Desolation without direct authorization. Now leave, or we will be forced to make you leave.”
For a moment, Leona could not believe what she was hearing. Why would the Councilors deny her this? She had to slay Plagueis! She had to make him pay for his crimes! And yet these men would not let her pass?!
“That’s enough!” shouted a woman’s voice.
Leona turned as the Adjudicators sheathed their blades and stood at attention. Flanked by two of the Institute’s elite guards, Vessaria Kolminye strode toward Leona as the paladin sheathed her own sword in her shield.
“High Councilor…” said Leona. Then, in anger, she demanded, “What is the meaning of this? Why are your men denying me from carrying out my task?”
“You mean to destroy the dragon, Chosen of the Solari?” asked Vessaria. After a short pause, the High Summoner then said, “That would be such a waste of his might…”
“What are you talking about?” A moment passed before sudden realization dawned on Leona. She then said, “You never intended to kill Plagueis, did you?”
“Kill him?” Vessaria calmly stepped toward Leona, ending shoulder to shoulder with the paladin. Staring toward the dragon’s lair, Vessaria said, “It would be simple to kill him in his present state, certainly… but I still have a use for him.”
Leona stepped away from the High Councilor, her face written with shock. How could Vessaria even conceive letting Plagueis live? Worse, she thought to manipulate such an abomination?!
“I understand you find it unthinkable that I’d want to try and control Plagueis, and you would be right. That is, if I were planning to make the same mistake as Karthus. Controlling Plagueis himself is impossible. Even weakened, his will cannot bend to mortal means.”
“Then how do you think you can–”
Turning to Leona sharply, Vessaria said, “I will separate the dragon’s body from his very soul, Radiant Dawn. We have no need for his unruly spirit. It is his physical form that the council and I seek. Even now, my Summoners are preparing a ritual that will imprison Plagueis’ soul separately from his physical shell, leaving his body an empty, mindless husk for us to command.”
“That’s madness! And you’d be–”
“I am more versed in the Institute of War’s laws barring the practice of necromancy than you are, Leona. But the rest of the council agrees that under the circumstances, an exception can be made. Having the Dragon of Desolation’s shell at our command would give us the means to enforce the laws of the Institute upon those who would violate it.”
It all clicked in for Leona what Vessaria’s plan was. The Summoners were going to turn Plagueis, or rather his body, into a weapon, one capable of defeating any of the major nations, even Demacia or Noxus, in open battle. They could use the dragon as a means to force others into accepting their rule, or perhaps even to conquer if needed.
As much as Plagueis deserved such a cruel fate, Leona knew leaving such a powerful weapon in the hands of the Summoners was far too dangerous.
“I… I can’t allow this!”
Leona again drew her blade, but suddenly gasped as she felt her body become numb. She then yelped as she was abruptly lifted off the ground by some unseen force, her limbs frozen at her sides as her shield and sword fell from her grip. Before her, Vessaria’s hand was raised to the paladin as her magic held Leona in place, her expression calm but commanding.
“Paladin Leona, I am appreciative of your efforts in helping us to subdue and imprison Plagueis. But your part in this is over. Now let me make this very clear to you: you will leave this place and never return. You will not interfere in this matter, directly or indirectly. And you will resume your duties at the Institute of War as a Champion of the League of Legends henceforth. Comply, and there will be no incident. Refuse… and you will not be the first who suffers for your choice.”
Leona struggled to escape Vessaria’s psychic grasp as she was made to stare the Summoner in the eye. The look on the paladin’s face was one of pure fury, but Vessaria was unimpressed.
“It seems I overestimated your strength, Leona. Even weakened as he is, I believe the dragon would defeat you at this moment if I were to let you through.”
“Y-You can’t do this!”
With a wave of the Summoner’s hand, Leona was brought back to the ground and forced onto her knees, her hands firmly planted beside them.
“That will be all, Leona…” Vessaria said as she brought a hand before her chest and a magical orb of green energy materialized over her palm.
As Leona tried to stand, Vessaria sent the orb right at the Solari.
Leona’s voice went silent as she disappeared, teleported back to the Institute of War by the Summoner’s spell, her sword and shield taken with her.
Pantheon continued to glare at Leona as she finished her story.
“I cannot believe the council would do something so foolish…” said Leona, placing a hand to her forehead. “They should know better!”
“Still so naïve, Solari,” said Pantheon. “They are presented with a powerful weapon of war and you believe they would squander the chance to bring it under their control? You believe the Summoners, who proclaim their cause as peacekeepers, would not take advantage of such power if it would be to their benefit?! It is you who are the fool, Leona!”
Leona continued to stroke her forehead as she contemplated Pantheon’s words. Zealous as they were, she could not deny they had a point. The Institute of War was certainly a powerful organization, but militaristically the Summoners would be utterly trounced if forced to combat the armies of Demacia or Noxus in open battle. Having Plagueis under their thrall would give them a sizeable advantage.
“But…” Leona said after a moment, “they truly think they can command that monster? They truly think it is for the good of all, after seeing what that beast is capable of? It’s wrong! They can’t! They mustn’t! They should have let me destroy him!”
“Feh! And you truly believe you could defeat him, even in such a weakened state?” said Pantheon. “No, Solari… you would have fallen before his might. You would have failed, because you are weak! Your kindness, your compassion, those make a warrior like yourself weak! See what it did for you and the Crownguard girl on Summoner’s Rift! You would do well without it.”
“You– you shut your mouth, Pantheon!” Leona shouted, abruptly rising to her feet. She glared threateningly into the Rakkor warrior’s eyes, but Pantheon did not waver.
“You know it is true, Solari. Your love for her nearly led to your downfall.”
“Not another word! Not one more or I will strike you down where you stand!”
“Hmph… I was finished in any event.”
With that, Pantheon swung around and strode away from a distressed Leona, who trembled with anger as she watched him leave.
Sona’s eyelids remained shut as she swept her fingers over the strands of her etwahl, playing her melody by heart. Around her, flutists and violinists joined her in a song that stirred the hearts of all in the Institute’s ballroom. The song was a classic, and one of Sona’s favorite pieces: Aria of Love.
But for Leona, who sat in the back of the ballroom, the notes fell on deaf ears. Her mind was too wrapped up in the cruel memory of Pantheon’s confrontational words.
Was he right? Was she weak because she cared for others? If she had been stronger, perhaps the Summoners would not have stopped her. And if only she had had the strength to defeat Plagueis on her own, Lux wouldn’t have been…
“I thought I’d find you here, Leo,” said a familiar voice, startling Leona.
To the redhead’s shock, she watched as Lux took a seat next to her and rested her head on the adjacent table, her arms cushioning her. The blonde girl was dressed in her black jumpsuit and white skirt, but wore none of her silver armor besides her boots.
“L-Lux?” Leona stammered. “W-What are you doing here? I thought Soraka said you couldn’t leave yet.”
“Umm, yeah… about that… I, uh, kinda gave her the slip, if you–”
“You WHAT?!” Leona shouted.
A second later, she realized how loud she had been as numerous other people in the ballroom were giving her harsh “SHH!” gestures. The music had also stopped. Leona sheepishly turned to see that Sona was, once again, giving her an annoyed stare.
“Oh, I-I’m so sorry, Sona,” said Leona. “I didn’t mean to– It’s just that Lux isn’t supposed to be–”
Sona raised a hand, gesturing for Leona to stop, and played a few cheery notes on her etwahl. Clearly she understood what was going on, for she made a brief silent giggle afterwards.
Sighing with embarrassment, Leona turned back to Lux and said, “I’m taking you back to your room.”
“Leo, no… I want to stay.”
“Luxanna Crownguard, you need your rest!”
“Pleeaase…” Lux whined. “Just let me stay here for a half hour? I can’t stand being cooped up in there!”
“But Lux, you–” Leona stopped as she again realized the commotion she and Lux were making. Then, sighing in defeat, she said, “Oh, alright… but only another half-hour.”
Sona’s fingers continued gliding over the strands of her etwahl as she continued her performance. While her focus was on the song she played, Sona’s thoughts centered on the two women who sat before her in the crowd. She made out Leona’s story as best she could; she would dwell on what she had heard later. For now, she felt she had to do her part to try and help them mend their troubles.
Lux sat in awe at what Leona had told her: the conclusion of the battle with Plagueis, the council’s plans for the dragon, and Pantheon’s harsh words. It was a bit staggering for Lux to take, in part due to her condition, but even if she were well it would have been hard to take.
“I can’t believe they’d want to do that. I mean, sure that creep deserves worse, but to use him as a weapon? That can only be trouble for everyone.”
“They do not realize just what they are tampering with… and I fear that it may lead to some calamity if nothing is done about it.” Then, with a sigh, Leona said, “But… what can I do? It would be a fool’s errand to try and challenge the Summoners on this, especially the High Councilor.”
Resting her head in her hands inches above the table, Leona said, “Pantheon is right. I am a weak fool. I couldn’t protect you in the battle despite everything I had. And if it hadn’t been for you and the others, I’d have lost… Maybe I am too kind…”
Lux’s face curled in a frown as she heard Leona say this. Instinctively, she rose up and, in a fit of pique, ruffled Leona’s orange locks of hair.
“Ah!” Leona gasped. As Lux stopped, Leona then asked, “Why did you do that?”
“You’re actually listening to that blowhard, Leo?” said Lux. “He’s an idiot. Don’t let him get to you.”
Immediately as she finished, Lux slid up next to Leona and leaned to the side, her head resting on Leona’s shoulder.
“L-Lux?” Leona asked with a small blush.
Sighing as she lay at Leona’s side, Lux said, “Only a fool like him would ever consider love to be a weakness.”
A long pause passed before Lux lifted her head from Leona’s shoulder. Lux then turned to Leona with a smile which, after a moment of hesitation, Leona was able to return.
“Thank you, Lux.”
Moments later, the two heard the sound of clapping as Sona’s piece finished. The Maven of Strings took a short bow as the audience applauded, with Lux and Leona joining in after a moment. Sona’s gaze turned toward them, and she gave them a comforting nod.
It was then that Leona realized that half an hour had passed.
“Come on, Lux. It’s time for you to go back.”
“Aww… no, Leo… Just one more song? Please?”
“Oh, no you don’t. I’m not letting you sucker me twice, and I’m not going to let you neglect your health any longer. You are going back to your room and that is that!”
Lux yelped as all of a sudden Leona had grabbed her and lifted the girl into her arms, carrying her like a bride. The act caught the attention of much of the crowd, who turned to watch as Leona carried a struggling Lux toward the exit, refusing to let the blonde go. To Leona’s fortune, Lux’s attempts to free herself were very weak, so it was easy to keep a hold of her.
“S-Stop it, Leo! Put me down! Lemme–”
“You’re so light, Lux,” said Leona.
Lux had not expected the comment, and hearing it brought a shade of red to her cheeks. It was then that she realized Leona wasn’t going to let her go. Her struggles ceased as Leona brought her out of the ballroom.
“D-Don’t say that, Leo… People will get funny ideas.”
Leona could only chuckle at this as the two entered the halls of the Institute.
From the stage, Sona silently giggled as she watched Leona’s stunt.
(Continued on next page)
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