Forgive your Assassin (or The Visit)
I have some time before the next match, maybe three hours. It's me and a group of Bronze rated summoners representing Lucid's nephew against Sivir's investment office. The Battle Mistress has an eye on his tea plantation.
What is the word for off-stage fright? I feel great confidence performing in front of a large audience. Staring out towards onlookers, all I see is a wall of people, distant like the sea. But when it's just me and one other, I'm treading water.
So when Sona and the League pulled me along on a trip to the Voodoo Lands, I found out what she meant by me getting out of my comfort zone.
We traveled by carriage to our destination. Dense petrified forest dominates the landscape, allowing only for small settlements stamped on bare clearings and near weakly flowing streams. The Grey Order encampment attracts students and masters of magic from all corners of Valoran. People practiced their craft in the open, making businesses out of selling trinkets and rare potion ingredients. Tea seemed to be a booming industry, with all the energetic bodies exerting themselves past their physical and mental limits. But even with a cloudless sky overhead, there was an overbearing gloom about the place. The air carried the scent of decaying wood and incense.
The Hastur family lives in a rather opulent tent on the edge of the clearing. Gregori Hastur and his daughter Annie greeted us at our passing. The father is a well aged man with a chiseled jaw and a hungry gaze. Annie perceives the world with those same eyes. Amoline was away teaching a group of novice mages.
The child eyed me with a look of mild curiosity as Gregori took us in. One could tell that, like any parents would, he and Amoline are especially proud of their daughter. The tent itself was held up by a lattice wooden frame and a pole in the center. It looked as spacious as any mansion's parlor. Magical artifacts were everywhere. Glassware, charms, gems and metal trinkets hung on racks all around. Annie's toys, almost indistinguishable from her parent's things, erupted from a toybox in one corner. A modest sized table stood in the center of their home, draped in a floral tablecloth. A tin kettle steamed over a tiny wood stove.
Annie's pyromania came from her father's side. His temperament flares up into a passionate firestorm at random. Sona gestured at something that looked like a tiny dagger, glowing blue and nay big enough to pierce through a boot. "That's my old guitar pick." Gregori warmly reminisced. "I played a bit in my rebellious youth." Immediately afterwards, she leaned her head into another similar artifact, hued a glowing orange.
"IF YE LOCK EYES WITH ANY MUSICAL TRINKETS OF MINE, MAKE IT NOT THAT ONE, MAVEN!" he cried in a booming grandiose crash of thunder. "SITTING BEFORE YOU IS THE PICK CRAFTED DURING MY FIRST DAYS WITH AMOLINE! WITH IT, I WOOED MY LADY WITH SWEET MUSIC THAT...no wait." He stopped as abruptly as he began. "Wrong pick."
He was sort of intimidating in an endearing way. Sona smiled all the way through that outburst and more. Taking advantage of a lapse in his enthusiasm, I laid out our offer over lightly bitter tea. In honor of the anniversary of the Grey Order's exodus out of Noxus, we came to set up a choir concert to perform a selection of pieces celebrating magician culture. Naturally, he agreed.
Annie's pyromania would be outright comic if it weren't so unsettling in person. "Silk smells like grass when you burn it" she chirped to Sona, pulling on the hem of her dress.
I was "the man people talk about in the reports" as Annie observed. Sona smiled in amusement, but I could only laugh nervously. Gregori hastily assured me that these reports, from contacts in the Institute of War, are only gossip. I have never been the subject of any significant gossip. It scares me just a little. Will our encounter in the Serene Gardens turn into scandal?
After smoothing out the details of our plan, we stepped outside to meet with another visitor. A bright blue parrot flew over our heads, circled around two or three times at a low altitude, and landed on a nearby shrub. It began to speak almost immediately afterwards, wailing "...Who's parrot is that? It's a beautiful bird!" Sona walked toward it in vivid shock. She looked between the bird and Gregori as it continued. "What's happening? What is it saying?"
Gregori explained that this parrot, Orsino, belongs to another resident some five minutes away. Orsino is infamous for his pestering of visitors by reading their minds and voicing their inner thoughts aloud. He perched onto Gregori's shoulder and preened himself. "I can shoo him off, but it may be a bit difficult" warned Gregori with an amused smirk.
Sona lay a hand over her jaw, at a loss for what to do (as alerted by Orsino.) A moment later, she sighed and let her smile wash over her. "It can't be helped" barked the parrot.
We walked to the schoolhouse where Amoline worked. Orsino began to whistle a festive tune during the while. The settlement wasn't very crowded at all, in stark contrast to the scene we entered only hours ago. Dust lay settled along the road, stuck in mired time. I sped the clock along by making small talk.
Thinking of the Hastur family brought a concern to mind. I asked Sona of her foster parents.
"Lestara was my adoptive mother." said the parrot. "She taught me the etwahl."
The name Lestara occasionally crossed her mind as we shared thoughts on the Fields of Justice. I never saw an identity to go with it, not even a face. "What is she like?"
Orsino made a strained craning motion with his avian neck, forcing something out. "She means the world to me. Music defines her existence as it does mine."
"Do you visit her often?"
Orsino whistled a pair of high notes as Sona wistfully glanced at the dead forest on the horizon. "When I can. About once a year at least."
I entered her mind around three times, yes, and this biographical information was readily available to me as mine was to her.
But I held myself back at every opportunity, in fear of discovering something unsavory. So I still know little of her past.
The tiny schoolhouse, built with haste and magical assistance, crept up onto the horizon. The sun hung a bit lower above us, and the day itself seemed impatient to be over with. A middle aged couple joined us on the trail, almost sneaking up from behind. The wife wore a flowery amber dress and smiled with a round face. She displayed a fountain of jewelry all over herself. The husband was a creature of modesty, dressed as if he were her shoe-bearer, but beaming with an alike smile that told of nobility.
Sona was taken aback at the sight of the lady. "Lestara?" pitched Orsino after a descending chime of notes. "No! My eyes stay partial to these old damned memories!"
Damned memories of Lestara? After sharing with us her love for the woman? It was clear to all of us (save maybe for Annie) that Sona had said something contrary to her own conscious, or grimly concordant with it.
With her eyes tightly closed, she waved her hand to strangle the bird but retreated a feather short. "Away!" Orsino barked. "Away from me!"
Gregori reacted tactically, conjuring a ball of fire and waving it around the bird's face. "You heard our lady! Retire your feathered arse back to your master's cage!" And with quite the performance from him, Orsino was off shouting "Lestara forgive me! Perdonami Lestara! Il tuo assassino ti chiede perdono!"
Sona retreated back into herself to a whole other degree. She avoided eye contact for the rest of the walk, and could only manage a weak, tired smile once we met up with Amoline. Even Annie's youthful charm couldn't cheer her up. I feel it would be vulgar to describe Sona's condition now.
The rest of the trip went without incident. Suddenly I feel there is nothing more I want to commit to the archive right now. I need to get ready. Lucid's nephew has a plantation at stake.
This next chapter was so hard to write, as I was always dissatisfied with the scene. Without any buildup from the revelation of Sona's turmoil about Lestara, having the main character suddenly feel so depressed is not true to his personality.
It's been slow writing, but rest assured that I'm actually working on it.
At this stage of the rewrite, I'm very susceptible to the inflence of random ideas thrown around by readers*, so feel free to critique the story!
Sona left the Institute today after staying for three days. She came and went with little fanfare. Her matter of business was somewhat urgent. For the seriously ailing health of the Leagueís staff, including most of its summoners, Lee Sin, some other celebrities, and Sona were commissioned to host some workshops organized by the Kinkou order. Naturally there was a high turnout.
It's part of the public health initiative that's sweeping Valoran right now. As of last year, summoners are more likely to die of chronic health problems than summoning malpractice, followed closely by suicide. No surprise. Everyone around me is old, married, and worried about their families abroad. Lucid has to smoke three different herbs a day to control his blood pressure and arthritis on top of regular meditation and exercise.
I saw Lee Sin as he led a meditation session with Sona and a group of elderly in the Rock Garden. It was a little awkward to see Sona and Lee Sin so intimate with each other after the monk's unwilling yet instrumental role in securing the farm of Lucid's nephew to Sivir. He and the summoner guiding him carried the game.
At one point, after the clinic dispersed, I caught a glimpse of Sona clutching his hands, then leaning into his chest with a sullen and morose aura. As I walked past, my ears picked up only the flowing of the moat which cuts through the garden. Sonaís etwahl was silent, lost for notes as people fall into want of words. Lee Sin and Sona look perfect together. The blind monk must have a good ear for music. Beyond that, I didn't know what else to think. I still don't know what to think. I'd rather not think about anything.
I brooded over myself for the next couple hours, keeping to my room until it went dark, past dark, I lost track of time and place. By some strange happening I was outside again, watching the sunrise on the tiny veranda overlooking the gardens. It was early morning, not even sunrise. The light was a muted deep blue, obscuring the horizon under half-darkness. There was a wrought iron table and two cold chairs to keep me company.
Sona entered from the screen door behind me, quietly and without elegance. The metal chair groaned a bit as she eased herself into it. She wore a purple nightgown that camouflaged her entire body against the pre morning darkness. I was looking at Sonaís floating head, a cascade of blue hair free of styling falling down to her backside. Her eyes were half closed, and she was slow to regard me at all. We were both visibly tired.
A hand crept over the cold iron surface of the table, reaching for mine. Memories of Sonaís embrace at the Serene Gardens beckoned me. I sent my hand over to grasp it, but shrunk back. It was time to break off the experiment.
I keep pushing her too hard. My wits canít keep up with the beat of her music, of any music maybe. Once I see an opening, I discard all notions of safety and restraint. But that opening, more often than not, is a trap. Overestimating her strength of body, I would place her at the front of standoffs to abuse her Hymn of Valor, holding onto some vain hope that our opponents would just back off like we could if we were at full strength. Sona had not the endurance to follow through. The pain was real, yet no screams accompanied it. Even in her mind, there dropped a silence that darkened the acceptance of her next death into a tangible nightmare that buried all forms of real pain. I feel powerless to escape it, so Iím giving up.
This I related to her as we waited for the sun. Adhering to the cliche, my aching heart wouldn't hold itself together, so I let it collapse right in front of her in a bleeding mess. Sona listened with a face of sheer disbelief. The etwahl floated silently behind her, deprived of Sona's impulsive idle plucking. We both ran out of things to say. The silence grounded a wall between us.
Sona closed her eyes and her head turned down, as if she had nodded off to sleep. A glistening tear moistened her eye. I rose to my feet. She stood up after, wiped it off her cheek and gave me a pleading stare. Now it was my turn to listen. Looking into her eyes then was like gazing up at the ceiling of a concert hall. To think at one time I seriously considered pursuing her. I thought this attraction was beyond infatuation. Even though our relationship is intimate, such closeness is only part of the job. Nothing more. Even though we open ourselves completely to each other on the playing field, all of a sudden I feel further from her than ever before. It seems I have been exhausted of substance. Things are changing, and it's shown how I've overstayed my welcome. No amount of her condolence can overcome my dread of failure. I must be the first person in her career to say that I don't want to hear her again.
Sonaís expression was expertly subdued. She backed off while looking at me, locking her eyes into mine until she turned a corner and was gone. Just like that. I sat there until the morning warmed the air a little. I wallowed in self pity for a while before coming back to my office to continue my work.
I'm sorry for your nephew, Lucid. I wish I could promise an end to this sort of injustice. But I fear a promise like that would dissipate in thin air, devoid of action.
PS: A part of me feels like Iím letting Lucid and his nephew down by dimming down my relationship with Sona. Now my sentiment is conflicted. I am confused.
STRENGTH OF SPIRIT
I am immersed in other duties around the Institute. Correspondence trips are always in full drive. The League has to keep in touch with all its Champions, so every two months we send over a guy to see if they're still alive and fit for battle. Whether through teleportation or physical travel, danger is ever present. In reckless search of this danger, I signed up for all the excursions available. Many of them were at least a week away, so that gave me time to finish up the required paperwork. In the meantime, the entire Institute is boiling in anticipation for the newest Champion to join the League. A demon, from the Ionian woodlands next to the fields that Lucid's nephew used to own, faced judgment today. I want to be as excited as my peers, but it's hard to get into the mood.
Afterwards, I went to the park next to the Institute, It's a big field dotted with trees and two fountains. Mornings look just stunning here with the amber sun shining off of the dewed grass. Along the trails into some wooded areas go lots of traffic. The Institute main building and the surrounding stone still looms over the view, but this little patch of paradise is still a popular spot for picnics There were lots of crows flitting and cawing around lately. Their calls competed with the songbirds, creating quite a ruckus. A troubled guy like me could take it as a metaphor for inner conflict if I were so inclined. I am so inclined.
Swain made a visit to the League today. With the power struggle in Noxus right now, I have no clue why he siphons time away from his efforts in the capital to do seminars on battle strategy and tactics. Perhaps to prevent the Institute from interfering with his politics, and maybe even to protect himself, he keeps the high summoners in close contact.
That would explain the heightened activity of the crows. Swain's companion, Beatrice, unnerves even me.
On the stone proscenium, the Noxian general is demonstrating lane swapping in front of a circle of summoners some distance away from my resting spot under the evergreen closest to the proscenium. The best and most prominent summoners often hold seminars like this during the offseason. I recall going to several of them regularly throughout my stay in the Institute. I still have the hundreds of flashcards I made, listing protocols and maneuvers, all for a futile effort. I want get rid of them.
The crows are getting more active, flying in denser formations above the crowd. Getting a bit loud, but nobody seems to notice. Suddenly, a particularly large raven landed a few feet away from my foot. It stood with a tense regality. One of Swain's birds probably. It's holding a small package wrapped in brown paper in one of its claws. The raven cried loudly at my face, then hopped closer. I grasped the package with care. It quickly flew away, and I was left alone in this big empty expanse with someone's message in my hands. I opened it right there.
The last time I saw an Innervating Locket was in the Journal of Justice, an article pronouncing the maker's death. It was shaped into a heart, carved from purple hued stone and embellished with silver trim. A simple crown emblem topped the front. I delicately traced my fingers around it searching for the latch. The pulsated with a familiar sentimental power. The item manipulates the emotions of its wielder. It was rich and sonorous yet rang strongly with guilt and grief. It probably was handled roughly during the shipping. That's maybe why the magic was acting up. Yet I can't recall why the artifact was decommissioned in the first place.
I opened it with reluctance. Obviously the locket signified something profound and bothersome. I wasn't done shaking Sona off yet to fiddle with thrown out League equipment dropped from the sky.
Inside was a note in place of a portrait. There is little room for words, and the terse message is scrunched up like a bundle of hair. Still, the text remains smooth and flowing. Only Sona's fingers, digits that speak through strings for a living, can achieve a feat like that.
"I have another concert in Zaun next week. I want to see you again, hopefully not for the last time. If you wish it so, then let it be so final. But please give me audience. Give me this chance to be candid with you, so that we can reprieve each other from guilt, so that we can forgive each other."
I was so lost in pondering that I hadn't noticed Swain limping towards me from behind to smack my shoulder with his cane. In a flash, I was up and alert to greet him and four of his equally intimidating guards. With a wave of his hand, Swain dismissed them to speak in private. The general, he explained to me with his mainstay glare, heard rumors of a young man seducing Sona Buvelle as part of a plot to ignite an Ionian offensive on the mainland.
Obviously, that wasn't me.
There was no need to convince him. One look, he said, was enough to dismiss me as no threat to him or Noxus. I was equally flattered and insulted, but thanked him and Beatrice for delivering the locket with my best poker face.
Swain saw right through it. "There is turmoil in your eyes, Summoner. Something is amiss in your little correspondence with Sona?"
I laughed defiantly and told him that whatever was between me and Sona had ended. Apparently, most of the preceding story had slipped my tongue with it.
"The Maven never was the one to keep secrets." he said solemnly. "Of all the Ionian champions here, Sona is, ironically, the worst Ionian I know at keeping secrets. In spite of being mute and all." The Noxian put a hand over my shoulder and forcefully started walking along the nearest trail. "Did she tell you about Lestara, her foster mother?"
This question hit me like coming to the light at the exit of a cave. She didn't tell me a word about what happened to her. And in retrospect, Sona's emotional display during our last outing so scared me to the bone that I couldn't act to comfort her. Thanks for making me feel like ****, Swain.
"Your ignorance of her past disturbs me greatly. I must remedy this immediately, seeing the woman has grown attached to you in this manner. Love is a battlefield, and I make it my war at every opportunity. It's a hobby."
And so he told me of Lestara's death, and of her judgment, known only to the High Summoners. I couldn't believe it. I refused to. I hesitate to write it down, even.
Lestara was slain by the etwahl, around the time of Sona's coming of age.
"Just being near her means risking your life, Summoner" warned Swain, in a tone that suggested I would be enticed by the danger. In a way unknown to me, I was. "Think of the power and influence within your reach! You could preside over the course of Ionia's future!" Swain averts his eyes for a moment. "That is, if you don't die too early." "Think of the power and influence within your reach! You could preside over the course of Ionia's future!" Swain averts his eyes for a moment. "That is, if you don't die too early."
I said I would think about it.
Right now my head's torn in decision. Zaun is infamously dangerous on account of just the smog. I could go somewhere else and forget these worthless ideas of hemorrhaging sentiment. To risk getting my skin melted off by a wayward vat of acid for an apology? I want to believe that I can put aside this rash thought. In the summoning profession, that is the ideal.
Forget ideal. Since when was I even close to ideal? I'm packing now. I was a fool to even think twice.
08:00AM Flight LOL leaves from Institute of War to Kalamanda
160g-120g League disc.
04:00PM Flight YCH leaves Kalamanda to Zaun
200g-120 League disc.
12:00PM Flight ASWS leaves Zaun to Bandle City
2:00PM Flight FU leaves Bandle City to Institute of War
Absolutely tired of apologizing to people. Outside the Institute right now. The sun's setting. I'm making the trip now, to Zaun, by airship. The locket hangs by a chain on my neck. This next meeting will be a mutual hurdle, for both of us. I've talked much of affection in the past. Nothing more, nothing less. However, maybe the following rhetoric will examine a word infinitely more powerful than that.
If I can learn what that word is, my life as a Summoner would mean so much more.
I just have to ask other readers if I should read this, if you don't know me ok if you do know me then you know how I feel of OC x Champion but I see this pop up a lot and reading the comments thought I'll ask if it's ok especially seeing that this is a re-make of the older one. So ye I'm mostly just throwing out my arbitrarily hate for OC's and want to ask if this is a well written story and good to read.
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