The dragonfly darted into the gazebo, hovering over the table where Soraka consulted with Lanti, her attendant, each morning. Soraka gently shooed it away, and it darted upward to join what appeared to be dozens of its kind near the ceiling of the gazebo.
If he had any amorous attentions, though, he would soon be disappointed. These dragonflies were not real. They were beautifully crafted decorations made of a number of different materials – glass, porcelain, wicker, not to mention several origami dragonflies – suspended by strings from the ceiling. Eventually realizing his companions were merely illusionary, he darted back out of the gazebo in the direction of Soraka’s grove.
“Another reminder that the Dragonfly Festival is approaching,” Lanti said. “We will need to make sure you keep your schedule clear, dear.”
Soraka sighed and stared up at the ceiling, regarding all the decorations.
“Oh, you’re not going to be morose about it again, are you?” Lanti said. “Every year. I’ve never met somebody so averse to being honored.”
“I will have people fawning over me for three days just for being clever,” she said. “I gave a speech. That’s all.”
“It was a very important speech at an important time.”
“Duchess Karma’s were better.”
“That’s why she has her own festivals.” The elderly woman poured Soraka more tea. An onlooker might picture that Lanti was Soraka’s mentor as well as attendant. It was a common dynamic in Ionia. Many leaders in both civic management as well as education (martial or philosophical) were “attended to” by men and women long past retirement. They were typically Ionians who had actually once served powerful positions themselves and offered their guidance. They may look like servants, but that was usually far from the case.
But Lanti, Soraka had actually known since she was a child and Soraka was still the immortal star creature who never left the grove. Lanti was a sickly child, and her mother brought her to Soraka for her assistance frequently. The girl suffered from a number of unfortunate illnesses and probably would not have survived to adulthood without Soraka’s intervention. They remained in contact for decades, and after Soraka lost her immortal nature, she asked Lanti to stay by her side. Lanti agreed.
Soraka looked out into the small pasture in front of the gazebo. A little further to the south was her famous grove. She would spend some time at the grove a little later and receive visitors. Then she would head to the Placidium for a few weeks. She was to represent Ionia in discussions among several city-states attempting to measure the level of threat the Shadow Isles may present to Valoran. As a country that prided itself on neutrality (past conflict with Noxus notwithstanding), Ionia would be hosting the discussion.
A few more dragonflies darted through the field. Soraka’s three goats – Merry, Canter, and Bounder – ignored them, choosing to nibble on grass. Decades ago, a small child visiting the grove pointed out Soraka’s legs and asked, “Are you part goat?” Her mother quickly shushed her, horrified that they might have offended the star child. Soraka laughed and told them all she loved goats and that goats were always welcome at the grove. For years that followed people seeking her healing help would bring gifts of goat milk or goat figurines. If a village was in dire need, they would actually gift her a goat for the grove. The gifts were never necessary, but she had learned that Ionians insisted on repaying kindness in some fashion, however small. It was considered a duty.
But then she gave the “dragonfly speech” during the dark days of the Ionia-Noxus War and the gifts changed. It was an accident, but it stuck. She had been traveling with a pack of Ionians to the scene of a recent battle. They were coming to provide aid. When they arrived, they discovered Noxus had routed and butchered their countrymen. Their bodies littered the countryside. The Ionian team was devastated.
Soraka could feel their despair filling their thoughts. She could feel them beginning to fear they would never be free of Noxus. She looked over the battlefield and saw the dragonflies darting about. She knew why they were there. The bodies had attracted flies, and the dragonflies fed on the insects. But they seemed so peaceful and serene. They darted with purpose when they needed to, but otherwise they calmly hovered.
“Look to the dragonflies,” Soraka turned and said to the Ionians. “They are not bowed by war. They are buoyant and serene. They move with purpose. They wait with patience. They prey upon scavengers. We must strive to be like the dragonfly.” She went on to the rapt crowd, talking about how they must act with focus and never lose balance, just like the dragonfly. After a few minutes, the team spread out from the battlefield. They managed to find seven Ionian warriors who were clinging to life, and Soraka saved them. It was a small victory amid a great loss, but the inspiration stuck. In Ionia, the dragonfly came to symbolize serenity and purpose. As the Noxian occupation ended, mayors of several villages near the battle site announced the Dragonfly Festival to honor Soraka for her role in the war.
Soraka was embarrassed by the honor. She did not emerge from her grove to help fight off Noxus, but many Ionians assumed she did. Every year when the Dragonfly Festival came around, it was an awkward reminder that she might not have even assisted with the war had she not been manipulated and betrayed by Warwick.
“It’s the outcome that matters, not the intent,” Lanti said. She was referring to Soraka’s speech, but Lanti was also one of the few who understood Soraka’s secret shame.
“Yes, I suppose,” Soraka said. She might not have been part of the war at the start, but she was certainly vital to bringing about its end.
“What other notes do you have today?” Lanti asked.
“I believe the Kinkou are considering acting against somebody, but I don’t know whom,” Soraka said. “I would like to know if at all possible.”
The Kinkou was a secretive martial order devoted to maintaining balance within Ionia and across Valoran. They were not afraid to use force against any agent who might disrupt the harmony of the world. Soraka knew and was friends with their three assassins – Shen, Akali, and Kennen. They had eventually followed her to the League of Legends for their own reasons. She suspected it was to keep an eye on both the summoners (who were powerful enough to completely upend any sort of balance on Valoran should they choose to do so) and some of the more powerful or unusual champions.
While Soraka supported balance and harmony, she had philosophical objections to their use of assassination to enforce it. She had in the past named herself as an advocate for their target and attempted to sway them from their decision. She was usually unsuccessful, but it wouldn’t stop her from trying.
“I will see what I can find out, but you know you would be more likely to find out from eavesdropping on the Fields of Justice,” Lanti said.
“I know,” she said.
They began arranging Soraka’s calendar for the next month. After a few moments Soraka held up her hand and tilted her head.
“What’s wrong?” Lanti asked. “Did you just get a summons by the League?”
“No,” Soraka said. “Men on horseback have arrived at the grove.”
One of Soraka’s abilities that didn’t translate onto the fields of justice was the ability to sense what was going on for quite a distance from her. The skill was most powerful in her grove. But elsewhere in Ionia, she could see with her mind anywhere in a village where she was visiting or anywhere in the Placidium. The power was a reflection of her bond with Ionia and did not work off the islands.
“That’s unusual,” Lanti said. Horses weren’t forbidden, but they tended to disrupt the calmness of the grove. Visitors tended to stable them in the nearby village of Len and walk to the grove.
“The riders are upset, I can feel it,” Soraka said. She stood up and strode out of the gazebo, Lanti trailing behind. The two of them made their way through the northern edge of the grove to find a gathering of six men bearing a banner of the southern Novari province. They bowed as she approached.
“Something’s wrong,” Soraka said. “What is happening?”
“There may be a plague, Mistress Soraka,” one man said. “An entire village has been found dead. Another may be sick now. We have been ordered to come beseech you for aid. We beg you for your wisdom and guidance.”
“Yes, of course,” Soraka said immediately, not even thinking about it. The news that an entire village was dead – nothing like that had happened since the war.
“We must prepare,” she continued.
“Allow me to gather your tools,” Lanti said, “while you get more information from these men.” Lanti scurried back north out of the grove. Just beyond the gazebo was a small pagoda where Soraka and Lanti lived when they were staying at the grove. Soraka wasn’t normally bothered by the elements, but she was vulnerable now that she was mortal.
“Please tell me what you know,” Soraka said. “If an entire village is dead, there is no time to waste.”