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Date: June 13, 22 CLE
The moist padding of Goshg’s feet echoes down the Great Hall. His poise, a landed fish still unaccustomed to the surface world, wobbles ever so slightly; he occasionally leans on his staff, a soft clasp sounding through the hall. His fingers clench around the strange artifact as he stops, looking up to the great double doors that dwarf his small form.
“The truest opponent lies within,” the lone placard reads.
He tilts his head, Goshg playfully contemplating the meaning of these strange words. Though very much distanced from his native people, he still retains a remnant of their innate curiosity. Behind the curiosity, however, surfaces the unnerving gleam of a predator supported by the ramblings of paranoia.
His lips curl upward, but he does not so much as snicker. He inhales; then exhales, a soft blue wind forming from his parched lips. The strange magic swirls, grasping at the doors like tendrils from the aquatic life Goshg knows so well. A loud thunk later, the door glides open, revealing a deep darkness. With a fumbled step, he enters as the doors close behind him, the light from behind him fading. In the darkness, his eyes glow; yellow orbs serving as signals for any prey.
Goshg snapped back, his mind a meddled fuzz of clashing memories. As his eye formed into paper-thin slits, Goshg felt the darkness around him become washed in a growing light. The light overcame him, seeming to assault his mind and senses. The first thing he felt was through his touch. His skin grew sated, the refreshing tug of the ocean filling his being. He clenched his eyes shut, unwilling to accept the obvious illusion for anything short of reality. The disorienting sensations fading, he felt his body hang limply. After a moment, Goshg cleared his thoughts, opening his eyes to his surroundings.
He raised his head, observing the comforting architecture of his homeland. The aquatic city, dominated by the spirals and golden hues crafted by his people’s ancestors, shone brilliantly under the artificial sun that illuminated the encased fortress. Goshg felt his breath dissipate into a blurb of bubbles from his gills, his pulse quickening. Eyes throbbing in disbelief, he tried to stumble back, his feet finding no solid ground. Instead of falling to the hard floors of the Great Hall, he flipped gently, finding himself pleasantly afloat once again in his ocean home. Putting his hand to his head, he pinched his hair-like appendage. This illusion…is real? No. He shook his head in revulsion of this mockery of his dearest memories. Even then, however, the space around him seemed to bend with watery currents, much like he remembered before arriving on the surface world.
“Good morning, Goshg!” A voice cheerfully shouted.
The Deep Dweller turned his head towards the sky, a figure over his head. An outline of one of his race looked down at him, playfully floating in the warm water with a carefree smile across his face. Without so much as another word, he spurted away in a flash towards the city.
There was no denying it for him now; he had returned home. He examined himself closely, an unpleasant realization dawning on him. His stranger features had finally become noticeable; a strange tail, an unnatural jaw, and eyes accustomed to the deep; yes, today was that day, just as it had haunted him for all these years. And, as if on cue, he heard the forceful strokes of guards through the water.
“Halt Goshg!” The spear-armed guards barked. “You’re under arrest!”
Goshg felt his temper boil: “On what charges?!”
The guards seemed to smile; Goshg narrowed his eyes. Were they mocking him? No, they had to be, he reasoned. They do not understand what I possess.
“You can ask the judge that, Goshg…” The guards dissuaded, their tridents crossing against his breast. With twitching eyes, he narrowed his gaze, an inaudible growl escaping from his throat.
Goshg breathed deeply as he was guided through the wide, vertical streets of the capital. The coral exteriors blurred together as vertigo overtook Goshg’s vision. The brilliant reds, purples, golds, greens: they sickened him; so homely and comforting, yet so foreign to him now. Never, since his first excursions to the deep, could he look upon the architecture of his homeland without his teeth clenching in marvel and awe. Was he truly that distanced? No, he thought; he was the same. It was his people who refused to acknowledge the gifts offered from outside their walls. Surely, he reasoned with himself, they would see eventually. No race could turn away one of their own for simply searching, could they? He shifted his gaze through the people crowding around him. Their faces seemed so similar to each other, a meddled mass of smiling blue. But why, Goshg questioned, did he have that feeling tugging at the back of his mind? They were laughing at him; he could feel it.
At last, his journey of mockery had ended as he was brought inside the central hall, a courtroom arrayed with a hundred of his people, sitting in rows upon rows. Each of their faces was listless, save one. From the top of his pew, a great judge sat pompously, his appearance old, wise, tempered, and knowing. Goshg remembered his face well. From those crusted lips spoke words of distrust and banishment.
The whiskered old fish, his eyes wrinkled, seemed to lean down, his eyes shining bright. In a voice not his own, he spoke directly to Goshg:
“Why do you wish to join the League, Goshg?”
Goshg rolled his eyes at the question, slightly irritated. “For my newfound allies within the city of Zaun, of course; they find their lack of representation on the main stage a bit disconcerting. As a result, they’ve been more than happy to add me to their ranks,” he finished, rolling on a knowing smile to each of his words.
The judge’s old, immovable face crinkled into an unnatural smile, his voice still morphed and disembodied. “No Goshg…Why do you wish to join the League?”
Goshg’s calculating demeanor hardened instantly, his gaze fixating on the judge. “To prove a point,” he said plainly.
The courtroom seemed to chuckle, though the judge remained unnaturally calm and immovable. Goshg felt his temper flair as he took a few strokes backwards. They continued to mock me, even after they have seen my form? How could they? Are they not my people?
“And what point is that, Deep Dweller?” the judge prodded.
“A few parlor tricks?!” A voice bellowed from the mass of aquatic citizens.
“Find any trash in the deep, Goshg-y?” A group of guards asked, their faces contorted into gnarled appearances unlike the most deformed coral he had ever imagined.
The room picked up into a hush of whispers; each of them was talking about him. Each. And. Every. One. Goshg shivered with apprehension, looking for his chance to validate his work.
“To show you what I have learned. I only wished to make you proud of what I have accomplished. I have journeyed so far for you all; surely the city must accept this new knowledge for what it is: a chance at a new approach. Surely you all must see that?”
Their laughter picked up, refusing to validate the sincerity of his words. Goshg felt his tongue cross, the few shards of sincerity and concern in his being wrenched around like a whirlpool. The crowd continued their verbal beating, Goshg’s mind plummeting; deeper and deeper, darker and darker.
Goshg felt his trembling legs give way, the ocean water doing little as he sank towards the floor. The courtroom went silent as Goshg collapsed, the guards backing off. Goshg’s breathing increased, filling the room with a soft, raw beat. He rubbed his short thumb over his staff, feeling the magical energies imparted to it by the strange creatures he met within the dark depths.
“Why?” He croaked. “Why do you not see?”
The lone judge spoke up, his next words in the same unknown tenor: “How does it feel exposing your mind?”
“Not a good feeling at all…” Goshg whispered, almost defeated. With a slight quiver in his speech, Goshg felt his eyes grow soft for a moment. “To relive this day…how it stained my honor…my achievements…”
Goshg gripped his staff.
“It just reminded me of why…” He shot his staff up towards the judge, the courtroom gasping. “…of why you must witness my strength! Only then, will you see what I have truly accomplished! No amount of coddling and protection from these walls can shake the power I’ve claimed!”
Goshg rotated his staff, feeling the waters begin to churn slightly. A great serpent formed in his mind, a flutter of words leaving his lips. Now, he mused, I will have my revenge. Now, he grinned, is where I will show these unappreciative fools the gifts I have claimed from the deep!
…but to no effect. Goshg stared wide-eyed and confused as the magic above his head fizzled. No, he panicked, my prayers must be heard; they must!
“A little too close to home?” a voice echoed smoothly from his side.
Goshg blinked, his angered eyes filling with confusion. The previous judge disappeared, the courtroom chillingly vacant save for one exception. With great agility and power, Goshg twirled in the water like a corkscrew, facing the sudden enemy with his staff to bear. Though Goshg’s senses indicated water, a strange bandaged human stood laxly on the courtroom floor, almost as if he did not acknowledge the ocean’s existence. The human’s frame appeared lithe and sickly, but the large, supple container on his back spoke volumes about his strength. Goshg’s expression melted into a disinterested leer, though his emotions still ran hot.
“Do mages generally give such a degree of unprofessionalism? You are far from the ordinary mage that has drilled me…” he jabbed, still floating warily in the water.
“I am as ordinary as you are, Deep Dweller,” the human quipped. Shuffling across the invisible surface, the man walked a small circle around Goshg, taking in the scenery as a soft purple mist seemed to gently drift from his container before disappearing into the ocean water.
“I’m Singed, a liaison and champion from Zaun, and I was specifically requested into being your observer for this exercise,” The Mad Chemist explained, looking towards the judge’s seat, the emblem of the city-fortress behind it. “As for your almost lethal display, the League does not approve of use of magical force outside the Fields of Justice, Goshg; to do so-“
“-would uproot the guiding principles that established the League, yes!” Goshg barked at him, shaking his staff as his spit dissolved into the water.
“Our…” Goshg’s angered demeanor melted into an annoyed grin. “…employers at Zaun have explained this to me.”
Singed remained unmoving, his pale yellow eyes barely distinguishable from his bare skin.
“I will not lie to you, Goshg. Your attempted outburst was a simple test; one that you obviously failed.”
Goshg felt his heart sink. A simple test? Was this just some joke to these meddling mages? Was that it?
“However…” Singed continued. “Consider this off the record; Zaun would not be pleased to see a would-be fighter rooted out so easily.”
Goshg’s anger and paranoia cooled, the possibility of revenge resurfacing in his mind. His mouth creaked open in a lethargic smile. “That is good then.”
Goshg’s smile never left his face as he gently wafted through the court room, his militant demeanor finally quelled. The Mad Chemist watched him carefully as Goshg examined the city’s emblem further.
“Tell me, Singed; have you met the young Fizz?” Goshg seemed to purr as he touched the wall, trying to see if some of the coral embroidery would flake from the insignia.
The Zaunite was slow to answer, but managed a stern “Briefly”.
“Ah; tell me, is he well adjusted to life on the surface?”
After a playful summersault, Goshg giggled slightly, stopping in the water as his unnatural tail guided his position. He eyed the city insignia one last time before speaking again.
“That is good; I wouldn’t want him too out of his element when I finally meet him on these…Fields of Justice.”
Goshg’s breath stuttered, his chest barreling into a laugh. The swells of the ocean rippled violently, the bright ocean waters fading, revealing the reflective halls of the League of Legends. With his feet once again on solid ground, Goshg calmed himself. With a semi-labored heave, he continued his awkward wobble, his staff and bare feet echoing through the halls.
“And what do you wish of the League?” Singed asked, intrigued.
Goshg opened his mouth, but stopped, gawking for a moment as he chose his next words carefully.
“The sea provided much for me, but it did not provide me with greatest desire.” Goshg’s mouth cracked into a wicked smile, his eyes growing wide with rumbling intoxication; the possibility of revenge still fresh on his mind. “Let us see if the surface fares any better…”