[CENTER]Chapter One: A Pillar[/CENTER]
“I was sure that I had heard Mr. Maokai say ‘let it be’…” Flora mused as she watched the wooden behemoth go about his work. Deftly, The Twisted Treant would produce his whimsically natured bombs and turned them once over in his broad hands. Afterwards he would place it carefully in a precise plot of earth and then stomp it into the ground.
“He told you to leave it be.” Harkken, a scraggly sort of fellow, replied.
“Technically…” Nadu offered. “As you were the one speaking with him, his order was directed at you, Harkken.”
With the help of an old time League Champion, the three had avoided any sort of casualty in their first recorded blunder in the way of treating an alien species. “Just what is he doing, planting those things.” Harkken wondered aloud.
Flora watched one of the first Sapling’s detonate forcibly. “I believe they absorb, among other things, arcane power.” With a powerful motion Maokai planted another explosive. “I think he’s cleaning up my mess.”
“Speaking of messes…” Nadu grumbled. “Choosing to subjugate Maokai with a Champion who possess the talent ‘Tormented Soil’ was in poor taste indeed.” He went on, glancing sidelong at Harkken once more. “It is that sort of dark humor that got you demoted!”
Harkken let out a short burst of hollow chuckles before turning to Flora. “I didn’t get demoted, really, it was a sideways move.”
“No it says right here…” Nadu muttered, fishing out some paper work. “Demoted.”
Only half shielded by the next shower of debris, Maokai’s controlled rampage was becoming harder and harder to ignore. Wanting to see if there were any more Saplings to be detonated, Flora poked her head around the pillar they had hid behind.
“Mr. Maokai, sir.” She piped up. “May I ask what you are doing?”
Having already once circled the garden, Maokai stepped over a crater made a few moments ago. “I am scouring this chamber of your magic… and you design.”
“If you had only investigated the matter you might have found that my magic was well mannered.” Flora suggested warily. “And… wait, my design?”
Shifting on his creaking joints, Maokai began to channel his power into a swirling vortex, presumably drawing the last bits of magic out of the air. “Gardens are foolish, and vain.” He explained resentfully. “If you want me to stay in this hole then grow things without magic. Make sure that the plants you grow are fruit bearing bushes so someone can make use of them. If there are flowers than give them the benefit of a beehive or other such pollinations.”
Flora withdrew from the conversation and edged back to the only other humans present. “You did quite well for yourself.” Nadu finally congratulated.
“I think I’m starting to understand why the Habitation needs more people.” Harkken muttered.
“That we do.” Nadu frowned, having to turn his attention back to his rogue element. “This was Flora’s task, Harkken, and you’ve yet to provide your contribution.”
“Finding him a like-minded individual…” Harkken sighed. “Are you sure that’s a great idea? If he despises mages for contaminating nature then anyone we introduce him to that thinks like that is only going to compound the problem.”
Flora shook with a sweet little laugh. “Then all you need to do is be yourself, hating the misuse of magic as you do. Forget about finding him another Champion”
“Pity you weren’t a better summoner or else you’d be perfect companions.”
Ignoring both of the sneers Harkken made his first move towards Maokai without a Champion between them. “Maokai, are you ready to meet another Champion? One like you?”
If just for a moment, the Twisted Treant disappeared from sight in a flurry of botanical debris and a shower of loose dirt. When Harkken opened his eyes from his involuntary blink, Maokai was practically standing on him. “I am not the first time that this has happened?”
A fit of nervous shivering overtook the startled mage hunter. “Well, you see... you are rather unique but there are some others we would like you to sit down with.”
From where he stood, coupled with how Maokai was standing, Harkken could see within the twisted gape of a mouth the tree sported. It was a deep pit that swirled with a sickly purple haze that bubbled and churned with a chilling familiarity. “You reek of arcane as much as the trees.”
Backing up a step, Harkken tugged at his high button up collar, revealing a lavender purple stain on his neck. “We didn’t start with the soil and the plants.” He admitted.
“Then show me someone else whose life you ruined…”
[CENTER]* * *[/CENTER]
“Flora made Malphite’s, uh, dwelling as well.” Harkken was explaining awkwardly as the two made their way towards their first objective. “He was a little more forgiving…” He added under his breath.
“Where did he come from?” Maokai asked, plodding along behind his short escort.
“He was brought here from another world entirely, to help us fix our world. It was rough at first maybe even worse then you, to be honest. He had never been without his fellows before.”
A deep rumbled resonated from within Maokai’s trunk. “You humans cannot even fix you own problems?”
“That was a long time ago.” Harkken muttered. “We’ve gotten better, and just look at how easily you dissolved Flora’s magic. We need Champions.”
Maokai’s dry twigs twitched with laughter. “You haven’t fixed yourself, I see. Will you summon another creature to aid you?”
Conflicted, Harkken stopped his measured tread. “The entire world is hurting, Maokai not just you forest. Count yourself lucky that you appeared in a place where people care about you, and that you didn’t wind up where no one would have bothered.”
The two continued on in silence, with Maokai fumbling with a knot ridden dud of a Sapling. It was odd feeling sorry for such a violent species but it was beginning to sink in that humans were far less tolerant to pain than trees. He wondered if this other Champion would be like him, after all.
After reaching their underground destination Harkken stopped in front of the large bronze gilded door. Absentmindedly Maokai reabsorbed the Sapling before anything else could be said.
“I’ll warn you now; Malphite is not a conversationalist…” The door moved all by itself, as such things seemed to do in the Institute, and Maokai breezed through the passageway first. The light, even the fake torchlight from the hall was immediately absent, which took the tree by surprise. His abnormal and limited new senses could hardly detect anything in the room, but magic bubbled all the same.
“Snuff. Lantern.” Someone spoke within with the deepest, booming voice Maokai had heard since his birth.
Lit to ward off animals and announce his presence, the tree guessed that its purpose was void in doors anyhow, so he did as he was told. After a fretful moment where he ended up singeing his fingers, the light went out and he could see somewhat. IN the absence of light, some sort of phosphorus mushrooms lit the dark corners of the room and their collection illuminated a pillar of rough rock in the center.
The rock pillar shifted, showing off a very humanoid shape. Its glowing green eyes muddled with the rest of the room’s poor light. “Malphite.” The rock nodded.
“See?” Harkken chimed from behind Maokai. “Malphite, Shard of the Monolith.”
With a shuddering sigh, Maokai prodded one of the spongy, fluorescent mushroom. “This is odd.”
“Light. Fine.” The room’s centerpiece commented.
Maokai turned away from the vegetation and back to what could be described as his host. “I thought it couldn’t possibly be true, but you are from another land?”
“Yes. Far away.”
“The magic is different… almost clean.”
“It’s a perfect example of Champions working with us.” Harkken nodded in agreement. “You know Flora, that girl you yelled at, grew these plants from spores and dormant seeds from Malphite’s body. Pretty interesting?”
“Harmony.” Malphite added, lifting up his broad hands. “Bring harmony here…”
“But you were stolen, how can you just sit there?” His voice wasn’t raised nor did it sound angry, but rather it was mournful. “How could you forgive them? Will they put you back?”
“Humans weak. Humans hurt. If we don’t help. Who will?”
Maokai was silent all of the way back to his ruined home with Harkken trailing behind him this time. Nothing about today proved that the humans were and less reckless and they were still as destructive as he had always known them to be. But if someone who was completely alien to this world could find it in himself to forgive the summoners then perhaps he could as well.
“Harkken, was it?” He asked, turning around to face his keeper. “I hardly think today has been an example of how far your kind has come. Your Society appears to be a part of a solution, but that hasn’t absolved you of your crimes.”
Harkken was still waiting, possibly in vain, for an apology.
“Have you fought in the League? What sort of abuse am I to suffer in exchange for my services?”
Surprised by the sudden change in conversation Harkken was at a loss for what to say. Certainly being beaten to death several times on the brutal Fields of Justice wasn’t going to make things better. “I have only once, and it was awful. It gets better though, or so I hear.”