I've been reading a lot lately, not writing :/ One of my problems is that I simply don't read enough and I don't expose myself to different styles of writing. Currently finishing the Dark Tower series by Stephen King because I am a huge fan of the older Western movies like Fistful of Dollars, The Magnificent Seven, etc etc.
Cookies go to anyone who noticed my one blatant reference to the Dark Tower series during my Swain/Darius chapter.
One Year Ago
Of the various routes one could take from Rakkor to Demacia, the three young men were taking one of the longest, an eternally winding trail which mostly traveled along mountain peaks and mesas. The road occasionally strayed from higher ground, dipping down into a fertile valley here, a barren canyon there. For the most part, though, the young men and their horses were on top of the world with an unobstructed view of the terrain below them. Pantheon had chosen this route explicitly for this purpose; the advantage gained by higher ground was the most elementary of battle tactics.
Not that he was particularly expecting trouble during his trek to Demacia. This current era was one of relative peace, and Rakkor did not have any declared enemies among the major nations. For all of his disdain of the League, he had to admit that the League was moderately successful so far in its quest to rid Runeterra of large-scale warfare.
Nonetheless, as his midnight black stallion trotted through a narrow canyon flanked by towering red rock cliffs, scree sent skittering with each hoofed step, Pantheon's head slowly turned this way and that, surveying everything before him, above him, behind him. One could never be too sure, too safe. Bandits still thrived through Runeterra, a pestilence plaguing any route which saw regular traffic. This particular region was also somewhat prone to landslides. Whether it be ambushing bandits, falling rocks, or a hardly coincidental combination of the two, uneventful trips could turn eventful in a hurry when one least expected it.
His two travel partners also mimicked their leader, their heads twisting this way and that to assess their surroundings. Unlike the taciturn Pantheon, however, whose lips were drawn shut into a thin grumpy line, their mouths were wide open, smiling, and flapping as they babbled non stop about the most inane things. Even worse, they happened to be twins with virtually the same exact voice and thought process, and they loved to complete each others' sentences even while the other was speaking; this ensured that every other stupid little thing they uttered and pondered, Pantheon would hear in stereo.
And right now, like most young men on the verge of entering the third decade of their life are prone to do, they were discussing a subject of the utmost importance...
Castor, he of the raven-black hair and sharp handsome face, mused out loud as he scratched his chin in a futile attempt to appear intellectual: “Hmmm, I hear that Demacian women are susceptible to whispers of romance and endearment this time of year... something to do with the blooming season of their national flower, I believe...”
Pollux, he of the raven-black hair and the slightly more handsome face (according to him, at least), nodded in agreement. “It was Constantine who told you this, yes? He who has been to Demacia several times while accompanying Jagen?”
Castor nodded at the reference to the most elderly advisor of their tribe leader. “Constantine has filled my innocent ears with wondrously lewd tales featuring adventurous Demacians of the female persuasion, to the point where I expect to be welcomed at the Demacian border by a beautiful scantily-clad lady with...”
Pollux chimed in to complete his brother's sentence: “... a scantily-clad lady with both open arms and open legs!”
They guffawed as one. The twins loved to jest about the synchronized spreading of women's limbs in such a manner. Their crude confidence was not without basis, however; it was not terribly difficult for either of them to coax a young woman into laying with him (or, on occasion, with both of them) for a night, due to their astoundingly good looks, considerable prowess on the battlefield, and their current status as single young men who were not yet spoken for.
Pollux continued to outline his and his brother's expectations regarding Demacian hospitality: “The average Demacian woman is of smaller build than the average Rakkor woman, yes? Oh, I do hope this means they are also tighter, oh yes I do! Can you imagine what it must be like, dear brother? It would be like breaking a virgin over, and over, and over, and over...”
An enthusiastically nodding Castor decided that it was time for the silent Pantheon to make a contribution to their discussion. So he called ahead to their revered champion:
“Hey, Pantheon, ya gonna **** a Demacian woman when we get there??”
A curt growl. “No. And keep your voices down, you imbeciles.”
Pantheon continued his survey of the red canyon, not bothering to turn his helmet back towards his harriers. Yet the grinning twins just knew that his lips and nose were scrunching into that one particular snarl of his. Pantheon's face always curled up into that frustrated snarl whenever he was reminded of the fact that he, the mightiest warrior of Rakkor, the League champion of Rakkor, and easily the most eligible bachelor of Rakkor.... was still a freaking virgin at the ripe old age of twenty.
Actually, his title of “most eligible bachelor” was something of a misnomer. The term “bachelor” implied that he was not spoken for. That he had not yet found the woman of his life. And of course, this was not true for Pantheon. Everyone knew who his woman was. She was the chosen one. Their sun. The Radiant Dawn of the Solari herself, Leona.
The twins were glad for their moody friend. They really were. After all, from what they could recall, Leona was a frighteningly beautiful woman with a body that was the absolute epitome of perfection for a Rakkor female (basically, a body of overwhelming size in all the right places, both functional and aesthetic). Granted, she was a bit hard in the head and had almost gotten herself needlessly killed during her Rite of Kor, but hey, no one was perfect.
The only problem was this. She lived way up there on the peak of Mount Targon. Pantheon lived way down there within the Rakkor's main village. Ideal arrangement for carrying out their duty. Not so ideal for tapping that booty. Casual contact between the Solari and the Rakkor was not allowed either, which meant no visits of the friendly, let alone conjugal, sort.
Even more frustrating for Pantheon was the fact that, technically, he could fritter about with other women and not be committing official infidelity. Because, after all, technically, he was not officially spoken for. He and Leona had not performed the ceremony of union. They had not exchanged vows. They were not officially one as of yet.
Technicalities were one thing, however. Reality was another thing altogether. And the reality was, when Leona had taken his hands into hers and asked him to wait for her, she had not done it just for his benefit. Her open display of affection had also aimed squarely at all the other young Rakkor women who constantly threw naughty and flirtatious glances at Pantheon and did all sorts of little things to catch his eye. It was no accident that when she asked him to wait for her, Leona had used, nearly word for word, one of the vows recited during the ceremony of union. Leona was staking her claim, marking her territory, call it what you will. Pantheon was her man. Keep your mitts off him while I am away, ladies.
For all the rampant testosterone within the male populace of Rakkor, infidelity was actually not as much of a problem as an uninformed outsider might think. This was mostly due to the fact that, while wronged women of other cultures often ran about wringing their hands in dismay and wondering what they did wrong, a Rakkor woman simply resorted to what the Rakkor did best: violence. A wronged Rakkor woman was legally allowed (most would say obliged) to challenge the homewrecker to a duel to the death. And if she was able to cut down the homewrecker, the estranged wife also had the right to challenge her former husband to a similar sort of duel, her ultimate goal being the severing of his head. It was worth noting that in a couple particularly famous cases, the head which a victorious ex-wife chose to sever was not the one that rested on top of his shoulders.
This was why Rakkor couples often did not take their vows until they were a little bit older, wiser, and absolutely sure that they could tolerate each other for the rest of their lives. This was also the reason why young and single Rakkor were as promiscuous as bunny rabbits in the bushes. Best to get as much of the curiosity and excitement out of their systems while they still could.
Castor and Pollux were very typical young and single Rakkor in this regard. Poor Pantheon, on the other hand... not so much. It was fascinating, actually, to watch the contradictory actions of the many young women who obviously found him attractive, yet were terrified to say anything to him other than minimal greetings and farewells. Some did not even dare to walk on the same side of the street as him. So what if he was not officially hitched to Leona just yet. The only thing that mattered was that in Leona's mind, he belonged to her. And none of the Rakkor women dared to be on the bad side of the chosen one. They were not necessarily afraid to clash swords with one even as mighty as Leona; after all, Rakkor women were just as pugnacious as the men, if not more so. They were, however, very much afraid of offending the gods which clearly had Leona's back. Many of the girls believed that Leona and Pantheon were a couple of destiny, fated from inception to be together; it was far too much of a coincidence that two childhood best friends, of opposite gender and as close as peas in a pod, would blossom into both the mightiest warriors and the handsomest couple of their generation. And the woman also happened to be a chosen one?? Surely this pairing was that of divine will. And surely any attempt to break up the pair would be perceived by the gods as an act of defiance, if not sacrilege.
So while the other young Rakkor frolicked with each other in their bedrooms after hours, Pantheon often spent his nights alone with an almost comical face of stone, slowly sharpening and shining the treasured weapons, shield, and armor bequeathed to him by his people. Once, in an ill-fated attempt to cheer up the rumbling pressure cooker of sexual frustration otherwise known as Pantheon, Pollux had suggested that the champion glue several locks of red hair to the knuckles of his right hand and name his right hand Leona. Pantheon had wordlessly responded with a single punch, breaking Pollux's nose in three places and knocking him straight into a hospital bed with a mild concussion. Needless to say, that was the first and last time either of the twins would crack a lewd joke involving her.
And yet, despite the broken noses that occurred outside of sparring (Pantheon had also broken Castor's nose once during a silly argument over the best method to sharpen a spear head) and his perpetual snarling at their scatter-brained chatter, the twins genuinely adored Pantheon. Certainly there was a healthy element of hero worship in their affection for him, but the twins were genuinely tickled and amused by his reclusive personality. And despite his propensity for random acts of violence, Pantheon was actually quite the patient man. The twins knew this because most men simply walked out on the two whenever they started prattling to each other; Pantheon, on the other hand, usually just sat there and endured as he continued to do whatever he happened to be doing at the moment. For sure, he would growl once in a while if they said something especially stupid, but generally the growls were of token exasperation and sorely lacking in conviction. Definitely more bark than bite.
Why did he tolerate them so? Surely their endless banter and brotherly atmosphere helped to fill the vacuum of loneliness that resided within the orphan's heart. But it was mostly his single-minded personality, the twins had long ago concluded, which allowed him to tolerate their loquaciousness. All Pantheon cared about was the art of fighting. Action meant much to him. Words meant little. The old cliché about words going into one ear and out the other was Pantheon personified, really. So long as one did not interfere with Pantheon's never-ending quest to improve his fighting prowess and physical condition, Pantheon really did not care a whit about the nonsense that one's mouth might be spewing. Unless that mouth was trying to tell the Rakkor champion how he should properly sharpen his spear. And, admittedly, that argument had been Castor's fault. Castor had known that Pantheon was in the right; the older twin just hated to lose arguments, that was all.
So when Pantheon received his very first invitation to a League public relations function, hosted within the walls of Demacia's capital city, the selection process of his travel partners had been a mere formality. Not only were the twins the closest approximations to friends that the introverted champion had, as far as appearances were concerned, they were very impressive indeed with their handsome countenances and imposing physiques. For this League function, the brothers would be ideal representatives of Rakkor... so long as they did not speak too much. Or fool around with someone's wife.
When informed that they were to travel to Demacia, the twins reacted with glee. Predictably enough, however, Pantheon initially balked at the invitation. Already harboring ample dislike for town meetings and the amount of bluster and grandstanding involved, he had little doubt that he would go bonkers if he were crammed into a room with a bunch of saccharin-tongued foreigners and their superficial friendly platitudes. But the elders had insisted that he make the trek to Demacia. Although the Rakkor loved to sneer at the League's pipe dream of a goal to attain some semblance of regulated world peace, the League was still composed of a formidable cabal of magi and mystics that was not to be trifled with. If the Rakkor were going to reject an offer from the League and infuriate the League council, it would have to be for a reason far more important than “Pantheon hates socialites”.
So it was decided. Pantheon would be traveling to Demacia to attend this League function. And for better or worse, the twins would be going with him. Their primary objective was to let everyone know that Rakkor should not be forgotten amidst all the cross-country debates about who was the strongest nation of them all. Their secondary objective would be to correct the popular misconception that the Rakkor were little more than a bunch of primitive and barbaric savages who killed each other at the drop of a hat.
For Pantheon, it would be difficult to accomplish both objectives at the same time. This was because he usually convinced others of his superiority by grinding their faces into the dirt until they begged for mercy. And it would simply not do if he spent his entire time in Demacia shoving the faces of other men into the ground. So the elders made sure to assign a tutor to Pantheon during the two weeks leading up to the League event. Someone wise and experienced in the manners of foreign diplomacy. Someone whose tact and restraint might rub off a bit onto him.
This particular person was the wife of the tribe leader Jagen, an extremely tall and long-limbed woman who would be deemed gangly if not for her impeccable posture. Her name was Octavia and, once upon a time decades ago, she had been a League champion like her husband. Not only that, she had once been the most feared archer in all of Runeterra; even now, in her mid forties, the Rakkor's greatest relic bow, the Tiger's Fang, still rested on her back wherever she went. Pantheon liked her more than he did her husband. Unlike Jagen, who was prone to grandiosity and hyperbole during the elders meetings, Octavaia's words were always quiet, precise, and straight to the point. Much like her arrows.
Even then, Pantheon could not remember much of what she had told him. Conversations of politics and diplomacy always made his eyes glaze over and his mind drift off. But he did remember one particular night very well, the most vivid memories starting off with her warning about the temptations he would encounter while in Demacia...
Early evening, she strode into his spartan (hah!) domicile at the scheduled time, regal and elegant as ever, her rangy body within its customary pristine white stola adorned with silken royal purple sashes. Her engraved steelwood bow, the Tiger's Fang, present on her back as always. A beautiful and severe dark brunette with her hair drawn back tight into a somber bun, she wasted no time as her archer's eyes swept over the saluting Pantheon. He was still clad in his battle armor from the day's training sessions; his ceremonial suit of armor lay off to the side in a disheveled pile, barely more than an afterthought. And, she noted with an internal groan, the combat savant was still wearing his blasted helmet indoors like a village idiot.
The room's lanterns were unnecessarily bright as always, giving Octavia the impression that Pantheon set them so to compensate for something he lacked. Or more likely, someone he missed. Either way, the artificial light was more than sufficient to show her the spots and streaks which still remained on his ceremonial armor.
She extended one long arm, tipped with a condemning finger. “Your ceremonial armor. Polish it again.”
He had grumbled a bit about the pointlessness of maintaining what he considered to be “fake” armor (ironically, his actual battle armor, while far more worn, was always exquisitely clean and polished in order to eliminate any chance of corrosion), but he had begun to do what she demanded. And while he sat on a stool with a shiny gold-laced greave on his lap, she stood with a watchful eye from behind his shoulder...
Then she suddenly said out of the blue, cutting right to the chase. “Pantheon Marcus, it is important to her that she be your first.”
His dutifully polishing hand stayed itself for a moment, and he raised his head to blink at her unexpected broaching of this topic. His mind, while top notch at processing anything related to warfare, was woefully slow when it came to women. And it showed as he thickly spoke like a drunken man smothered in cheesecloth: “What do you mean – ohhh, yes. That. There is no need to worry. That will not be a problem.”
His words, while stilted, still conveyed indifference, almost flippancy. And she raised an eyebrow. “I think you underestimate the situation you will encounter, Pantheon Marcus. The women there will not respect your relationship with Leona like the women do here in Rakkor, and they will be throwing themselves at you by the dozen.”
“Hah, let them come! If I can deflect the arrows of a hundred archers with my shield, I can surely fend off the amorous advances of a few starstruck courtesans.”
To emphasize his declaration, he flicked away at the air as if to bat aside the invisible gloved hands of a clingy wigged-and-powedered noble woman. Then he hunched back over his runed greave and resumed his polishing, unaware that, behind his back, Octavia was smiling quite wide at his choice of analogy. He really believed the matter would be that simple, did he? For a man so well-versed in countless fighting techniques and battle tactics, his obviously sharp mind was still simple-minded and child-like in many ways. The children of the village certainly sensed this innocence about their champion, at least, seeing him as both a superhuman hero and a kindred spirit. They constantly flocked to him as if he were the Pied Piper of Rakkor, following him on the streets wherever he went, tugging on his clothing, and always begging for him to jump, jump, jump! He would growl at the pestering children much like how he would growl at those pebble-brained twins, twisting and turning his body away in a token attempt to free himself from their clutches. But in the end, he always jumped. And the children would scream in delight and clap their hands as he landed lightly onto a nearby hilltop, onto the furthest guard tower, or whatever destination he happened to fancy at the moment.
Perhaps, as the years passed by and he grew out of his youth into a man of even higher stature, he would become jaded and truly distant. Perhaps he would turn deaf ears to the children's pleas and keep his feet rooted to the ground. Octavia did not think this could happen, however. There was something incorruptible about him. Something above and beyond the gaudy trappings and laurels that came along with status and prestige. Certainly, this was a large part of what made him so attractive to one as idealistic as Leona. And to other women, as well.
Her long right hand slipped onto his left shoulder and gave the armor pad there a single pat of affirmation. “It is well, then. I am glad to hear that you are trained in the art of shunning women.”
Her faint tongue-in-cheek jab was not lost upon him, and he raised his head again (although this time, he continued his polishing) and he said to the empty space before him: “You think I jest, Octavia?”
“Of course not. I am sure you mean your words with every fiber of your being, Pantheon Marcus. But I do not think a woman has yet to truly test your resolve, am I correct?”
He hesitated. “Well, I suppose that is true... but regardless, there is no way I would ever find a flimsy limp-wristed Demacian woman to be as attractive as a Rakkor woman.”
“Not all of the women at the event will be pasty socialites and powdered courtesans. They have their share of capable warriors also... you faced one of them recently on the Summoners' Rift, did you not? The Crownguard's daughter?”
“Luxanna Crownguard? Ehhhh.” Pantheon wrinkled his nose at that name and the creepy bright smile associated with it. “She is an impressive woman, even for a trickster mage. But...”
“When I conversed with her afterward, I could not help but feel that she was a little... off?”
To his surprise, Octavia burst out into laughter at this, and he became dimly aware that the fingers of her right hand were now dancing along the warm shoulder pad of his battle armor. “Interesting choice of words, my young Pantheon... and also accurate, I dare say.” The fingers stilled for a moment. “If Luxanna is anything like her mother, it would behoove you to steer clear of her, lest she sink her claws into you.”
The tribe matron's voice had abruptly taken on a bitter tone, and he was puzzled by her odd and extremely specific warning. “If she is like her mother? Pardon?”
“You and Leona have not yet taken your vows... so Leona will most likely forgive you if you do something utterly stupid and foolish, since she strikes me as an especially magnanimous woman... mark my words, however. That stupid and foolish thing will be a sore sticking point between you two for the rest of your lives.”
The woman's voice and face were now as tight as the bun atop her head. And suddenly the revelation smashed Pantheon upside the head, almost sending him falling from his chair. Was she actually implying that Jagen during his younger days... and the Crownguard matron... what in the world?? Then again, on more than one occasion, he had detected a certain coldness radiating from her towards Jagen... and come to think of it, she never failed to emit that unusually chilly aura of hers whenever Jagen was conversing with blonde women. He had thought that maybe she was the overly possessive or jealous type, but the past two minutes now painted their relationship in a whole new light...
He shook his head with absolute certainty. “I will not do anything stupid and foolish. Leona asked me to wait for her, and I will wait for her. I will never do anything to violate her faith in me.”
He then bent back down over his greave, all the while zealously nodding in an attempt to show that he understood what awaited him, Crownguards and all. To Octavia, however, all his overconfident and overzealous nodding did was show her the opposite: he really had no clue about the temptations that awaited a champion of the League. Well, she supposed that words could not adequately describe what he would experience. Especially to one as poor of a listener as he was.
With silent slippered feet, she glided past him and into his field of vision, apparently aiming to sit on the empty chair across the hearth. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, but he did not see as his attention was currently focused on his task at hand...
An unexpected sound, rather than unexpected movement, triggered the first alarm in his head: the loud whisper of fine cloth rushing quickly against a woman's skin. He did not even have time to ponder before her clear voice cut in.
“Have you seen anything like this before, Pantheon Marcus?”
Like the dutiful soldier he was, he swung his eyes upwards at her command without a second thought. And his eyes promptly bulged within their helmet at the sight of Octavia's amazingly long and utterly naked right leg, bared all the way to the waist where her hem was now bunched by one of her hands. Like any self-respecting Rakkor, she took extremely good care of herself and, even at her age, her body was still as taut and supple as any. If he looked closely, he thought he could see the tiniest hint of looseness on the skin behind her knee, but even then, he was not sure -
What the hell was he doing looking at her knee? His eyes swept upwards, along her muscular thigh and to her strong tight haunch, the surface of her tanned roundness as smooth as that of a baby's skin -
No, no, no. What the hell was he doing looking at her, period?? She was the wife of his leader, what was she doing, had she gone utterly crazy, what was going on??
And even as all this blitzed through his stupefied mind, he could not tear his eyes away from her leg as he drank in every line, curve, and hollow. It took a few moments for him to finally spot her undergarment. The most impractical strip of black lace, as thin as the string of her bow.
Her voice cut through his confusion, posing her initial question once again: “I asked you, Pantheon Marcus. Have you seen anything like this before?”
Not knowing what else to say, he fell back onto the truth, his tongue smothered in cheesecloth once again. “No, I have not.”
Her free hand (the one not grabbing great handfuls of dress) began to slide up the insides of her thigh, her fingertips caressing herself in an unmistakably sensual manner. “Does my leg tickle your fancy?”
“I, well, I - yes, of course!” His eyes started to go haywire as he looked around to make sure the shutters of his windows were closed. Thank the gods they were. “Octavia! What are you doing - ”
Fwoomp! Both of her hands were free now as the length of her stola dropped back down to her ankles, leaving Pantheon both relieved and disappointed. Although the peepshow was done, apparently Octavia herself was not, for she now closed in on her champion, her face shockingly soft and gentle, half-lidded eyes smoldering with desire...
The dumbfounded man unconsciously leaned back and away inside his chair as she neared, to the point where he almost tipped over. But before he could spill himself onto the back of his head, she was behind him in an instant, steadying his chair with her frame as her long sinewy arms reached around to wrap themselves around his iron waist, twin boas constricting a common prey. Her searching hands snaked downwards, fingers slithering about, feeling for him...
“Ahhh... amazing...” Her lips were by his ears, apparently, and they were crowing in victory. “Truly worthy of a chosen one, yesss...”
And then, before he knew it, she was no longer by his side. She stood by his doorway, adjusting her attire and hair, regal and aloof once again. And she simply said as she looked downwards to make sure nothing was amiss with the skirt of her stola: “Expect something along those lines when you are in Demacia, Pantheon Marcus.”
His hands, amazingly enough, were on autopilot, still polishing the greave. His lips were on autopilot as well. “Oh. I see.”
She smiled thinly. “My tutelage ends here. I wish you well on your trip to Demacia.” Her fingers now curled around his door latch much like they had curled around him. “If you wish to learn more, however, you may come by my quarters at any time.” Her thin smile warped a bit now. “My door will always be open for you, my dear champion.”
And then she was gone, his door shutting gently behind her.
CONTINUED ON NEXT POST
Back to the trail within the red canyon. Pantheon, astride his black stallion, was shaking his head free of the forever lingering webs which that damn woman had woven. To this day, he was still not sure exactly why that witch had done what she did. And what the hell had Jagen done which left her so unhappy and vengeful? Surely there had to be more to it than simply a one-night fling with a foreign woman, even if the Crownguard woman had been his first. Or perhaps that offense alone was enough to earn a man an eternal burning grudge from his woman? Whatever this grudge, it ran so deep that she would eagerly wrap her legs around the one man who could defeat her husband in the death match that would surely ensue. That had to be her end game, yes? To find such a man and entice him into seizing the reins of their tribe from Jagen by lethal force. And then what? Leona would surely challenge her. And did Octavia really think she could defeat Leona, especially at her age?? What a laughable concept! Or perhaps she did not care if she won or not; perhaps she was simply an envious ***** who sought only to ruin what Leona and Pantheon had.
The most shocking part of all this was that she would dare to fool around with the man of a chosen one. Then again, if there was a Rakkor woman who would dare to defy the pairing of alleged destiny, it would have to be a woman like Octavia. Whatever it was that Octavia lacked, guts and intestinal fortitude were not among them.
There were only two things which Pantheon knew for sure. He was going to stay the hell away from that viper's nest of a marriage between Jagen and Octavia. And he was going to make damn sure that Leona would be his first. The cold Octavia and warm Leona were about as night and day as two women could be, but after seeing what Octavia was capable of, the thought of Leona hating and cursing him until her dying breath sincerely sickened him to his stomach.
His mind now lapsed into tangents as he thought of Leona, far and away and alone, surrounded by faceless men who, beneath their veneer as the righteous Solari, surely lusted for her. As utterly ridiculous, preposterous, and flat out offensive to Leona the concept might be, he could not help but wonder if she was so lonely, she already sought comfort in another man's arms. Before Octavia, he had not been concerned in the slightest about such things. This was freaking Leona he was talking about here. The most stubborn, hard headed, and iron willed person in all of Runeterra. Immediately after Octavia, however, with his idyllic views of marriage and love dashed to smithereens, it had proven difficult to keep the occasional unclean thoughts from his head. It got better over time, but all it took was an innocent hello and a knowing smile from a passing Octavia to set his innards into a roil all over again.
Any recollection of Octavia never failed to darken his mood, and he was having one of those unclean thoughts right now concerning Leona's situation. Today's thoughts involved coercion. And although he was not a particularly imaginative man, his imagination was vivid enough to set his teeth gnashing and his mind spinning with paroxysms of murderous rage. Certainly one of those faceless men would never be able overpower her and have his way. But if they formed a group of many? Ten? Twenty? Dozens? They could. Would they? Who knew, really. The Rakkor were brothers in arms with the Solari, yet the Rakkor knew so little about them and their inner workings. Their higher calling might be pure in theory, but they were still men; and the one constant throughout history was that men of power were extremely susceptible to corruption.
Several times, Pantheon had asked the elders if he could go to the peak of Mount Targon and visit her. His requests never went anywhere, instantly rejected and cast aside without any semblance of deliberation. The Rakkor were a culture firmly entrenched in tradition, and tradition dictated that if contact was to be made, it was the Solari who went to the Rakkor, not the other way around. There were exceptions to the rule, mostly involving signs of divine intervention. Unfortunately, there were no exceptions to be made for a lonely man who missed his best friend. Even if the man happened to be champion and the mightiest warrior in all of Rakkor.
While Pantheon's mind swirled with aimless fury and the most improbable of dire scenarios, it took a moment for him to realize that Castor was shouting something at him with great urgency. It took another moment for him to realize he was inside a red canyon of the material world, not some amorphous phantasm of a Solari prison cell concocted by his brain. And he was completely off guard, vulnerable to the impending danger which Castor strove to warn him of.
No time to mentally flog himself for his inattentiveness. A hand dropped to his sword's hilt, his five senses immediately on full alert as he whipped his head around to his comrade. “What is it, Castor??”
“Luxanna Crownguard!” Castor shouted back with an utterly serious face that would serve him well at any poker table. “Would you **** her??”
Pantheon blinked. Then he scrunched his face into a curdled expression most analogous to that of a rabid bull dog, as he resisted the overwhelming urge to leap onto Castor's horse and strangle him where he sat. Castor cringed from the possibility of yet another broken nose, not quite sure why Pantheon was so mad at him. Pollux cackled in delight at both his terrified brother and his pug-faced champion.
Pollux continued his brother's line of questioning. “I take that as a no, dear friend! But why not?? I do not think the bedding of a Demacian would be a violation of your imaginary vows with Leona! Plundering the women of foreign lands is an unavoidable consequence of war! Like anyone else, we conquer the lands, pillage their fields, and ravish their women until they are short of breath and rid of clothing! If you bed Luxanna Crownguard, that must count as a conquest of sorts, yes? An impressive first notch for your currently unmarked belt!”
Pantheon gave Castor one last glare, then turned back to face the front. “I swear to the gods, Pollux, if you say anything of the sort to the Crownguards, I will hold you down myself while Garen stomps your stupid head into the ground.
Pollux frowned unhappily. “Are you saying that she is not worth the effort? Is she not as attractive in person as she appears to be on the holo crystals?”
Good gods, this man was hopeless. “Stop putting words into my mouth. Yes, she is attractive. But I do find her to be a little... off.”
Castor decided it was safe to speak again. “Off, you say? A little kooky...”
Pollux finished, “... in the head?”
“Something along those lines.”
Pollux then said in a hopeful tone, “Maybe she might just be crazy enough to throw herself at you. And in front of her horrified family, to boot! Wouldn't that be something!”
Pantheon rolled his eyes. “Right.”
“Hey! My friend, we are just trying to get you laid! Leona may think it is important that she be your first, but we think it is far more important that you know what the hell you are doing when you finally make her into a woman! And come to think of it, what is the worst she can do if she is not your first? She does not believe in killing her comrades, right? So, at the very least, she will not try to kill you like most other Rakkor women would.”
One of those rare moments where Pollux had a somewhat valid point. If Pantheon did something utterly stupid and foolish, most likely Leona would not attempt to cut off his head. However... Pantheon could easily imagine her smashing the flat of her sword against his forehead twenty times in a row. Gods knew how many times she had flattened his forehead during some of their more heated arguments in the past. She said she did it only because she knew his helmet could withstand the blunt force trauma. He had a feeling that, in this hypothetical case, she would demand he remove his helmet before she administered her punishment.
Pantheon tried his best to change the subject. “Perhaps you two have your hopes far too high. Has it occurred to you that, other than Luxanna, all the women there could be ugly and homely hags? She will be the only lady champion in attendance, after all.”
The twins simultaneously recoiled in their saddles at his outrageous proposition, aghast that their friend could suggest such a horrific thing.
Castor: “Demacian women? Ugly?? That is no joke! That is heresy, pure and simple!”
Pollux: “Have you gone mad! Hold your tongue, or you shall jinx us all!”
As it were, however, the twins' fears were unfounded. For one day later, on a sunny mid-afternoon, the Rakkor trio were deep within the walls of the Demacian capital. The League's social function was well under way. And, by the gods, there were women.
The gala was held in the rear gardens of the Lightshield family's palace, literally the backyard of Prince Jarvan IV (who was currently away on some quest to slay a dragon or two, according to the family's butlers). Gorgeous flowered plants and bushes were strewn everywhere in all sorts of intriguing (haphazard?) arrangements, presenting an ostentatious myriad of shapes and colors presumably designed to provoke deep thought. Interspersed within the flora were the fauna, consisting mostly of inordinately groomed people dressed in lavish costumes and opulent finery. A full-fledged orchestra played off to the side from within a semi-circle of giant ivory vases, their lilting harmonies given direction by the waving white gloves of a stuffy and scrawny moustached conductor. A constant unintelligible hubbub of gaiety floated above the throng, reminding Pantheon of the incessant babbling of content geese.
Freshly relieved of their weapons at the entrance by a large contingent of polite guards, the Rakkor now made their initial rounds of the seemingly endless gardens. The twins carried their helmets under their right arms, their handsome faces and broad smiles drawing many appreciative looks from members of the fairer ***. After some prodding from the two and with great reluctance, Pantheon also removed his helmet fifteen minutes in, feeling pathologically naked as he did so. If nothing else, he did this to prove to the world that the champion of Rakkor was not some hideous troll hiding behind a helmet and a pair of adonis companions. And of course, nothing else could be further from the truth because, upon the initial removal of his helmet, numerous discreetly observing eyes widened all around him.
Then the women, already trickling into his vicinity to vie for attention, started to come in droves. And the twins were absolutely besides themselves like kids in a candy store because these women were beautiful. Granted, the majority of the ladies were flimsy and limp-wristed little things, but even the glum Pantheon had to acknowledge their allure and appeal. For him to suggest otherwise would be a clear cut case of have not, want not. So many pretty faces and winsome smiles, subtly enhanced by makeup. So many bulging chests, not so subtly enhanced by painful-looking corsets. Very few exposed legs, however, much to the Rakkor's chagrin. The invitation had specified that the dress code of this event be similar to that of a ballroom, since the organizers planned to move the event indoors once the sun set, and the large number of looming frilly ball gowns reflected the League's wishes. Most of the Demacian men were dressed in a white-tie manner. Most of the non-Demcian men were not, the most obvious being the three Rakkor in their spick-and-span ceremonial armor.
The three men of Rakkor slowly made their way to the east for no particular reason. A steady stream of humanity flowed through and around the trio: a stream of gorgeous women, cordial summoners, pompous people of “importance”, and the occasional fellow League champion. And the one thing they all had in common was that Pantheon could not care less about them even if he tried.
The summoners were mostly magicians, and while most people found magic formidable, Pantheon merely found it irritating (cheap parlor tricks, he liked to say). Heavily powdered and perfumed noblemen were complimentary with an inadvertent touch of condescension. They gushed about his feats and clamored about his victories as if they had been there with him side by side. As if they knew what it felt like to hurl a spear or wield a sword, when it was patently obvious that none of them had ever taken part in an actual battle. The gorgeous women were good for an initial ogle or two, but none of them could even begin to compare to Leona. And they often talked about matters which he had zero interest in, causing his eyes to grow glassy and his jaw slack as he nodded like an agreeable automaton (Octavia had been very emphatic that he nod a lot while in the company of women). He did note with amusement that the boredom went both ways: whenever the twins talked for any length of time, quite a few of the women's eyes also assumed that same glassy sheen.
Thankfully, conversation with his fellow champions proved to be interesting at times. He supposed that if he had to pick a favorite among them, it would be Poppy. Mostly because she was a yordle of few words who seemed to hate being there, all of which he could definitely relate to (everything but the yordle part, that is). She spent most of her time sitting at a large round table by herself, eating anything that came her way and armwrestling anyone who dared to step up and test her might. Their conversation had been short and illuminating. She recommended that he try the rice pilaf and the ribs of the spit roast pigs, both of them seasoned with herbs native to Demacia. Her famous hammer was her father's creation. No, there was not another one like it. She had pinned the hand of every single opponent so far. He would have to get in line if he wanted to challenge her (the line at the time had to have been at least a hundred drunken men long). Pantheon politely declined her invitation to armwrestle. Partially because he hated standing in lines. Mostly because he didn't think he could live with himself if he lost to a yordle in a competition of strength.
The next champion he ran into was another yordle. Tristana, the trigger-happy cannoneer. Unlike the stolid and morose Poppy, this one was unsettlingly twitchy and hyper. Facial tics galore. Fingers constantly fidgeting. Especially the trigger finger. Their encounter had been as brief as her attention span. They happened to sit down next to each other by the side of a snowy marble water fountain, thus they were forced to exchange greetings. Neither of them cared to pursue the conversation beyond that. He had been occupied with a heaping plate of fragrant rice and mouth-watering ribs. She was trying her best to spy on the yordle champion Teemo without being too obvious. Apparently she was flustered by the bevy of female yordles who were currently swarming all around the famous scout. Pantheon assumed that the other yordles were females due to the number of predominantly pink flower blossoms that were tucked behind their ears and the huge ****-eating grin spread across Teemo's face as he played some sort of tag-you're-it game with them.
There were other champions and longer conversations, to be sure. However, if you asked Pantheon who made the biggest impression on him that sunny afternoon, he would not give you the name of someone who bore the title of champion that particular afternoon. With great reluctance, he would give you the name of someone else. And because the name happens to belong to a woman who is most definitely not Leona, it is extremely unlikely that he would elaborate any further on what exactly went down between those two that day. Doing so would greatly increase the risk of having his forehead smashed in repeatedly by the flat of a certain Solari's broadsword.
So, we shall gloss over these other champions for now. Brewmaster Gragas of Freljord. Ionian Udyr of Freljord. The Cryophoenix of Freljord. King Trundle of Freljord... the list goes on and on.
CONTINUED ON NEXT POST
I suppose I can go into greater detail about Queen Ashe of Freljord and the Crownguard siblings of Freljord – err, Demacia. For in a way, they were the beginning to the end of Pantheon's innocence that day (that one evening with Octavia does not count because, while that had been a tumultuous experience in its own right, he did not do anything to her that he would later regret).
We fast forward to a couple hours later. Pantheon had finally stopped eating rice and ribs. The Rakkor twins finally found a pair of young ladies who actually enjoyed their prattling ways. Currently, the four beautiful young people were yukking it up in their own little clique while Pantheon stood off to the side, cleaning his teeth with an enamel toothpick graciously offered to him by a member of the butler army. Hilariously and fittingly enough, these women also happened to be twins. Two fetching blonde girls who were part of the Demacian royal dance troupe. Very nice and warmhearted girls, to be sure, but not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. Perfect mental matches for Castor and Pollux, Pantheon thought with a grim smile.
While the party was getting started for the twins, Pantheon just wanted the damn thing to be over with. He wanted to head back to the guards at the gate, reclaim his weapons, and start the long journey back home. The sparkling crystal lamps, loud flowers, glinting clothing and jewelry, everything was just one blindingly bright blur to his eyes beneath their sagging leaden eyelids. The geese babble rang throughout his hurting head, his dulled ears no longer able to pick out the individual notes of the orchestra's music. Maybe he had eaten too much? Most definitely he had eaten too much. But the ribs had just been too damn good to stay away from. He fancied that he was losing all sensation in his extremities as the benign paralysis of food coma started to set in. He idly wondered if maybe this was all one giant Demacian conspiracy where the Lightshields plotted to kill off him and other select champions by overfeeding them.
He would not leave just yet, though. He would bear this burden for the twins, for Pantheon was all too familiar with the role of wingman. And for the thousandth time now, he thought to himself: this wasn't how it was supposed to work, was it? He was the champion. He was the hero! He was the one who could practically pick out any woman of his choosing at this accursed affair. He was the one who should be strolling around with a woman underneath each of his arms while his lackeys picked up the scraps!
So bored was he, even the plentiful eye candy had become a part of the big hazy blur that plagued his aching head. The women were now as faceless as the villainous Solari men he had imagined yesterday. They were all cut from the same mold. Talked about the same superfluous things. Had the same narrow range of indoor hobbies, other than the occasional horse rider (Pantheon had long lost count of how many of these women specialized in “party planning”). They were exceptional only in how utterly unmemorable they were –
Actually, no. He took that back. He had met one exceptional woman so far: Queen Ashe. A very impressive lady, indeed. Too bad she was spoken for, even if her marriage was some sort of arranged union for political purposes. The attraction had been mutual, which stroked his vanity quite a bit, but she made it crystal clear early on that it would remain just that: mutual attraction. Not that he had been pushy or anything. She only threw down her verbal Wall of Jericho after those cheeky twins started bugging the scowling Pantheon to hit on her while she stood right in front of them, so she had to say something.
A high-pitched laugh of alarming volume pierced the air now, and Pantheon turned his head to spot his second impressive lady of the day. Luxanna Crownguard, absolutely stunning in a virgin white gown that was more reminiscent of Demacian wedding garb than anything else, was doubled over and giggling madly about something which her brother had just said, all the while a snowy and feathered gloved hand clung to his sheepish arm with disturbing possessiveness.
Castor stepped into the periphery of Pantheon's view now, musing out loud as he watched the Crownguards mingle from a distance. “You know what, I think you are right about Luxanna. There is...”
“... definitely something off about her,” Pollux asserted as he stepped into view from the other side. The dancer twins had nothing to say other than a shared, timid, and noncommittal giggle. They were afraid to speak anything remotely ill of Demacian nobility, who happened to be both their employers and audience.
Pantheon was not exactly attracted to her, but she did pique his interest. Thus, he began to pay attention to his surroundings again. He roused himself out of his rib-induced lethargy, the world resolving itself of its blurriness and tuneless cacophony as his eyes and ears once again cared about what they saw and heard.
His ears perked forward and tuned into the distant conversation. He could make out maybe a third of the words exchanged between the Crownguard siblings and the “people of importance” they were talking to. One of the men of importance seemed to make a playful comment about Luxanna's choice of clothing, intimating that she looked very much like the blushing bride to Garen's groom. Her face was reddened due to alcohol, not blushing, but she laughed anyway. Laughed with far too much pleasure and delight for such an inappropriate joke. And she now hooked one of her arms with her brother's, securely nestling her elbow between Garen's bulging biceps and forearm.
Garen, at least, looked like he was about to die from embarrassment. A little distance off from the siblings, the parents were conversing with other people of importance, the elder Crownguards totally oblivious or uncaring about their daughter making a minor spectacle of herself... Octavia and Jagen still fresh on his mind, Pantheon then noted with horror that Mother Crownguard was not paying attention to her daughter because she was tossing the occasional flirtatious glance at him. Not at Castor. Not at Pollux. Him. Huh. Apparently the woman had a thing for Rakkor champions.
Since they were directly in the line of fire between Pantheon and the Crownguards, the twins almost immediately noticed her eye-****ing of Pantheon. Yet they did not badger him to go talk to her, even though the older woman was still very much an attractive lady (not quite as well-preserved as Octavia, though). For even the twins were weirded out by the dynamics of the obviously dysfunctional family. In Pantheon's eyes, the Crownguards were surely a symptom of how ****ed up Demacian society was, at least in regards to their nobility class (it had not yet occurred to Pantheon that one could easily say the same about Rakkor society as a whole).
Turning away from the middle aged woman's shameless gaze, Pantheon commented, “They make for a handsome family portrait, at least.”
Castor nodded. “Ah, to be a fly on a wall of their household.”
Pollux: “A wall of Luxanna's bedroom, even.”
Castor: “I wonder if she and her brother share the same bedroom.”
This elicited a gasp of shock from the twin dancers and the girls looked to Pantheon, expecting a sharp rebuke from the twins' leader (the girls had a pretty good idea by now of how Pantheon and the twin men usually interacted). Pantheon had no reprimand ready, however, because, quite frankly, he did not think Castor was far off from the truth. At the very least, Luxanna clearly had some issues. At the very worst... ehhhh.
He shuddered and turned his mind to other thoughts. He was sincerely amazed how a woman so calm and courageous on the battlefield could also be such a batty incestual loon off it. How did she turn out like this while her brother seemed so well-adjusted? Maybe “seemed” was the operative word here. Or perhaps Demacian families greatly favored their sons over their daughters? Or maybe, while Luxanna seemed like a very bright woman (pun intended), Garen was a total meathead and too stupid and dull to fully comprehend how ****ed up his family was (as one can tell, Pantheon did not have a very high opinion of the Might of Demacia).
Then, for the sake of pissing off Pantheon, Pollux opened his mouth to suggest that Pantheon go hit on Luxanna anyway. But Pantheon did not hear what came out of Pollux's mouth, because the champion suddenly grew very still, eyes riveted to the far side of the garden, staring with such an intensity that the twins immediately knew what he was looking at.
“Oh ho!” Pollux cast his eyes in the same general direction that Pantheon faced. “What do we have here?”
For the moment, Pantheon let the twin's teasing tone be. For she had entered.
She blew through the powdered and wigged geese like a force of nature, her extravagant ball gown stormy with hues of austere gray and navy blue, bold and militant among the sea of flowery soft pastel dresses. A strapless top revealing much of her sleek and vigorous upper body. A ludicrously large hemispherical skirt bottom, surely supported by a crinoline. Pantheon noted that the costume's bulkiness did not hinder her movement in the slightest bit, for the unwieldy dress did not own her. She owned the dress, as she swept through the crowd with her arms perpetually outstretched and the backs of her elbow gloved hands extended to any man who desired to have a taste of her beauty. And the men desired, oh yes they did, as they flocked to her generously offered hands with their lips puckered, hoping to taste her navy blue silk before she was gone (she was moving that damn fast).
She bore all the marks and mannerisms of nobility. Sapphire was her favorite gem apparently, for it was her necklace, earrings, brooch, and other pieces of jewelry which Pantheon could not classify. Her makeup and powder, while nowhere near as heavy as the average noblewoman's, still reeked of luxury. She was clearly well-schooled in the art of schmoozing, as she returned every inquiry and greeting with an effortless and meaningless bromide, casting her words over her shoulders as she pressed onwards to wherever she was going. The satin locks of her dark brunette hair, shorter and bobbed, danced freely (and yet somehow as one) about her slender neck. Her fair neck especially beckoned to his eyes and dry lips (he wet them with his tongue now). Elegant, upright, and a smooth alabaster. A majestic swan amidst the common geese.
Initially, as she tore through the crowd, Pantheon thought she had an entourage of men tailing her, hand servants to answer her every beck and call. But he then quickly realized that she was alone and that the men she left behind in her wake were merely straggling would-be suitors with forlorn faces unable to hide disappointment. Even the ones who managed to catch her gloves with their lips wore stiff unhappy smiles, for she was clearly not interested in them.
She did all this with the most arrogant and impertinent smile he had ever seen in his entire life. The degree of arrogance was exceptional for a face so young, even considering her lofty status. She looked so young that, despite the very adult manner with which she carried herself, he momentarily wondered if she was even of age of consent... he dismissed the possibility. These men would not have shamelessly hurled themselves at her like so for the opportunity to merely spend the next one or two years fruitlessly kissing and petting. She had to be of age. He even ventured to guess that she must have turned recently, judging from the air of frantic desperation of the men about her. Drones buzzing around the newly spread petals of a tulip bud, competing to be the first to drink her nectar.
The frenetic buzzing about her rose to a fevered pitch as she actually stopped for a moment in the crowd. The surrounding men, hopes lifted by her pause and presence, exchanged hostile looks with each other. Who was she stopping for?? They stood still, waiting breathlessly for her next move, a bit like the front row of a packed rock concert where the fans surge forward, constantly fighting for shoulder space and elbow room, yet go nowhere.
She paid no heed to the imperceptibly closing noose of men around herself. Much to their collective dismay, she had paused to simply snap open her fan with a sharp flick of the wrist, and she began to cool herself off with an air of childish grumpiness. The blue silk fan matched her dress, emblazoned golden with what had to be her family's coat of arms. Pantheon noted that her little display was more out of habit than actual need; she hardly looked taxed, or even flushed, by her recent exertions.
He found it odd that he did not feel even a hint of contempt for her. Like her peers, she was clearly spoiled and pampered from birth, chastised and humbled probably once every blue moon. But unlike her peers, her arrogance did not seem to draw from just her name and wealth; there was an intangible substance backing the presence -
Wait. What was this? She was looking at him now. At him.
Her head had been slowly turning on her delicious neck, pale steel blue eyes scanning the loud mosaic of plutocratic festivities. But now, from a good hundred yards away, with what had to be hundreds of people between them, her eyes spotted him. And her body froze much like he had done earlier himself upon spotting her. Like he did again now.
Time froze with them. For an ephemeral moment stretched into eternity, their eyes locked, and so much happened. Her smile, plastic and smarmy for the masses, now gave way to a questioning face of surprising anxiety as her keen piercing eyes searched his face for something, anything, now that he gazed upon her. She wanted him to see something special within her. She wanted him to lust for her like he would for no one else. She wanted his company for the day, a ballroom dance for the night. She wanted to talk to him, laugh with him, learn him. Know all his favorites. Uncover all his deepest secrets and darkest desires.
For now, though, all Pantheon had for her was a smile. A small smile of great reservation, to be sure, as an indignant Solari protested within the recesses of his subconscious. No more than the upwards twitch of his lips' corners. The smile happened before he knew it. And once he realized it, it was too late to pull it back.
His little smile was sign enough for her. She visibly shone with delight, her rigid noblewoman's face breaking open into a wide genuine smile which made her even more beautiful many times over. Taking heart in his acknowledgment, she immediately charged forward into the crowd again. To him. The gorgeous smile never left her face and her eyes never left his. The open fan now thrust out front like the prow of a surging battleship as the waves of saddened noblemen dashed themselves in vain against her iron sides.
This was the moment where Pantheon should have turned tail and ran (or jumped, if you will). He should have known that once she drew near him, he would not be able to walk away from her wonderful irresistible smile. But alas, he was young and dumb and fearless. He thought at the time that no harm could come from a simple greeting and a little chat. He thought that, if need be, he could just turn off whatever he felt and walk away. He would learn in due time that there are situations which a man spoken for must avoid at all costs.
In his flawed defense, he was not able to think straight at that moment, mostly because of her smile. The smile was not seductive in nature, yet it excited him immensely, far more than the paltry titillation of Octavia's bared leg. This woman's smile, now having acquired a hint of mischief, promised him many things, all of them intoxicating and addictive. Things he yearned for and missed since Leona's departure. Things he had yet to experience. He was not able to actively name or qualify these things right now. He simply sensed them within her. Felt the instinctive need for them.
One of those rare times where Castor and Pollux had a better grasp of the situation than their comrade. And thus it was they who first realized what exactly was going on here.
Castor started off: “My dear friend, if I am not mistaken, that woman came to this party...”
Pollux continued: “... with the sole intent of meeting you...”
Castor finished: “... you are one lucky son of a *****.”
Their astute observation jarred Pantheon out of his trance. Although his eyes did not leave hers, his mind now thought consciously of matters other than her smile, neck, naked shoulders, and cleavage. He watched her movement as she quickly closed the distance. Effortless, superb coordination. Silent movement that would draw little attention from onlookers if she were not so beautiful. Again, so much unlike the busy bustle of the other noblewomen. Was she a dancer like the twins? Nah. She kept her body in marvelous shape, clearly, but her body was not quite that of a dancer -
Wow. How could he have not seen this before. The powder and makeup, the pointlessly extravagant jewelry, the ridiculously huge dress, they had all blinded him from the obvious truth. Pantheon began to laugh out loud now, freely. His delight was as genuine as the smile she wore, and he watched her smile widen further as her doubtlessly sharp ears picked up the appealing peals of his tenor voice...
“Hmm.” Pollux raised an eyebrow. “Are you practicing your laugh for when she arrives?”
“No, no, no, don't be stupid, you motherless fool.” Pantheon was feeling very well now. Very well indeed. “I laugh because I have realized something about the woman who approaches.”
“That woman is a fighter.”
It all made sense now. He had subconsciously picked it up when he first saw her more than two hundred yards away, but his mind had not realized it until she started plowing through the crowd with her fan thrust out. Her extended arm, held high and proud in a classic fencing thrust. Her shoulders and back, although the frame still slender and decidedly sensual, were far too developed and muscular to be those of a mere dancer. He had not initially considered her fighter's build to be unusual simply because it was not unusual at all; he saw the same muscles every day on the women of Rakkor. It also explained the lack of contempt he felt when first seeing her and her ridiculous noblewoman's costume. It certainly explained why she could rudely brush aside virtually every man she had encountered so far at this gala, and all these men did was smile helplessly and take it on the chin. For while they were drawn to her, they were also afraid of her. Unlike them, who dealt in coins and banknotes, she was a warrior who dealt in steel.
She was close now, no more than ten yards away. To his annoyance, his heart pounded loudly and his lips were dry yet again. To his delight, her neck and facial features were taut and stern despite her lovely smile. He also saw that her body's muscles were striated and wiry now that they were no longer softened by the illusion of distance, undulating beneath her skin with every move. Yes, she was most definitely a fighter. Sleek like that of a cheetah, as opposed to Leona's tigress.
Many heads were turned and watching now as the most beautiful flower in the entire gardens came to a stop before him. Mrs. Crownguard scowled like a scorned banshee, the unflattering expression revealing the age of her face. Lux sighed in happiness while she clung to Garen's arm, for she liked to think that romance beget romance. The dancer twins also had similar sentiments as they held onto the arms of the Rakkor twins. Although the lull in the crowd was localized, Teemo, the ever vigilant scout, sensed it from faraway and jumped onto the top of a water fountain, using his trusty spyglass to see what the heck was going on.
Pantheon saw and heard none of this, for all of his attention was on her. This was what she had wanted, and her smile became both appreciative and gracious as she rewarded him with a slow and graceful curtsy. Dipping as low as her looming dress would allow her. Very much aware that she was giving him a first-class view of her cleavage as she did so.
It was his turn to be appreciative now, as he noted that she had a fairly deep bosom for such an exercised woman. Her smile curled higher, knowingly, as he then respectfully (albeit reluctantly) pulled his eyes back up to her awaiting face.
They locked eyes for a moment again. Then, still holding her curtsy, her smile became demure as she bowed her head and averted her gaze. And her luscious rosy pink lips, out of his sight for the moment, finally spoke to him.
“Greetings, Pantheon Marcus of Rakkor and esteemed champion of the League. I have watched every one of your matches from afar and with great fervor, for I consider your fighting prowess to be second to none. It is both my honor and pleasure to personally welcome you to our nation of Demacia, and I dearly hope that you will find our hospitality to your liking.”
For the past ten minutes, Pantheon had carefully fashioned a greeting for her in the event that they should actually exchange words, but all that went out the proverbial window when he got an eyeful of her chest. His mind had started an emergency recovery process during her long-winded welcome, but the process promptly aborted, mind grinding to a halt, when she lifted her head back up to look at him. For beneath the mask of her formal words, those eyes and lips were promising him things again. Promising him that if he kept her company throughout the day and into the night, her luscious lips might be pleasing more than just his eyes.
Not knowing what else to say, he fell back onto the most simple and obvious things. He greeted her in the traditional manner of how a Rakkor man greeted a woman: striking his chest with an open hand and curtly bowing from the waist. And he said:
“You have me at a disadvantage, my fair lady. You know my name, but I do not know yours.”
An effected gesture of shock as she brought a gloved hand to her O-shaped lips. “Oh, but where are my manners??” Then she smiled and bowed her head once more as she informed him, “Please forgive me for my transgression, Pantheon Marcus. My name is Fiora, of the House Laurent. And once again, welcome to our nation of Demacia.”
As she remained in her submissive gesture before him, one of the twins (Pantheon was not sure which) clapped an encouraging hand onto his shoulder from behind. And the devil whispered into Pantheon's ear: “Fear not, dear friend! Leona won't kill ya!”
OMG WHAT ARE PANTHEON AND FIORA GONNA DO WITH EACH OTHER?? HE WOULD NOT REALLY CHEAT, WOULD HE?? POOR LEONA!!
Anyway. Okay, this “chapter” ran a little long. So long, as a matter of fact, it went to 60,000+ characters and I had to split it up into three posts lol. I don't know what happened exactly. I started writing and then, boom! Before I knew it, 60,000 characters.
Again, anyway. I wanted to try portraying the life of a League champion as a celebrity, and I went the flashback route because it would be hard for my current Pantheon to enjoy the perks of fame when he is potentially about to go to war with Noxus. And make no mistake about it, League champs are surely meant to be celebrities since they were being interviewed in Journals of Justice and stuff. For a guy like Pantheon, the closest IRL parallel to him would be a sports athlete who's recently made it big, imo. He's still a very young man in my story's timeline, and obviously a physical specimen. Women would doubtlessly be throwing themselves at him wherever he went.
I just had a lot of fun trying to express what might be going on through such a guy's head. Pantheon is Famous Champion Guy, so he has to do League stuff which is the equivalent of public relation events or press conferences; but he also strikes me as a no-nonsense guy who doesn't really care about that ****. He loves Leona, but long distance relationships suck. They especially suck if she lives nearby but her parents and your parents won't allow you to visit her. Can't blame a guy for at least straying a little here and there, especially if it's some pretty girl with a foreign accent... can you??
Also delved into what politics might be like in a culture like Rakkor. Violent culture, so I imagine they settle domestic disputes with legalized violence. Rakkor politics will be explored later on in the story, definitely...
Had fun writing some other champions into this story, even if some of their parts were brief. I decided to use Fiora as Pantheon's temptation because, well, I really like Fiora's design. Also, as the story unfolds, I believe it really is a role perfect for her. So Fiora gets to be the potentially homewrecking "villain". I also realized that my story so far has yet to have actual conflict, which is a serious problem imo. Noxus is definitely looming on the horizon, but Pantheon or Leona have yet to actually fight them. Fiora's introduction addresses the problem in a way because she threatens Pantheon's and Leona's relationship.
Also, I know Lux x Garen is gross and stuff, but I love to use it anyway cuz I think it's funny.
Also, I'll be updating more often because I've discovered a way to write without interruptions. Do it at the library with a laptop! No bed to pass out on, no desktop to play games for hours on end, no roommates or friends, etc etc.
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