This story is not dead! It lives!
Chapter – Solar Flare
"Why has she called us together? And now, of all times? It is nearly dusk."
"Did you not hear?"
"The Heretic returned. She has joined the League."
"They even fought in a match today. Apparently, the Heretic targeted only Leona the entire match."
"This is not good."
"Indeed. We must see why she has called us, but if it is what we think it is…We know what we must do."
Sixty men, each wearing purple togas with gold hems, walked as one. They were all either in the mid-thirties or early forties in age. They stepped through the white marbled halls of the temple complex in silence, they came upon row upon row of shining, monumental colonnades. Sunlight seemed to pour from every crevice as the men neared their destination. The Radiant Dawn, in all of her glory and decorated in her ceremonial armor, sat in her large oaken chair in a large open space, sunlight seemingly streaming from her very being. Several hoplites in brass armor, shields and spears held at their side stood behind her. One of these men stood at her left, holding a large, shining shield with his xiphos blade sheathed. The councilmen grabbed the hickory stools that littered the floor, arranged themselves into a circle and looked at the Avatar, waiting for her to start. Dusk was approaching, making it a very strange time for her to call a meeting.
After a few minutes, Leona finally moved and looked around at the council gathered before her now. She opened her mouth, and her usual firm yet soft, commanding yet comforting voice filled the room, "Do you know why I have called this meeting, and deemed it urgent, council?"
They looked at one another, murmuring amongst themselves. One of them finally spoke up, "It is because of the appearance of the heretic."
The men murmured to one another once more. The same man spoke up, "We heard about what happened in the match. We understand you must be fe-"
"I want to know about the Lunari."
The man tried to stare at the Radiant Dawn, squinting his eyes in his best attempt to look at her while he responded. The light emanating from her seemed to intensify with each passing moment. "The original Elders went over this with you, Avatar. Nothing has changed."
Leona folded her hands on top of one another onto her lap. Her hazel eyes seemed to burn into the skull of the man speaking, "Why was she to be executed?"
"I want to know. Why was she to be executed?"
Several of the people spoke one after another, reaffirming their reason, "Because that is the punishment of heretics."
"I see," Leona nodded. "Why was I not consulted, in regards to her?"
The council looked at one another, than at Leona. The same man as before spoke up again, "They did what they knew was necessary, Avatar. We are following Solari law and scripture, your will."
The man continued, "Solari law dictates that any heretic of the Solari religion is to be asked to give up their belief and rejoin the Sun as the first step of many steps to their redemption. Anyone who refuses any of these steps is condemned and executed, so it is decreed by the original Avatar."
Leona's eyes twitched, "Which is to say, is not me."
"She was the sun before you, and you are now her. Ergo, your will, is her will, which is subservient to the sun. She who was blessed by the sun only fulfilled its' will, that being heretics are given a chance for redemption, and then executed. It is how it has always been."
"That is why Diana was to be executed without alerting me?"
The man nodded, "The Elders and us believed that such a petty issue would not be needed to be brought up with you. We know why you have called the council to convene."
The other men murmured to one another, nodding in agreement. The man got up from his seat and fell to his knees, supplicating himself in front of Leona. The others followed suit. The man spoke, "We apologize for the failure of those who came before us, Avatar. Today could have been avoided if Diana was dealt with promptly. Forgive us, the Council of Elders, for the failure of our predecessors, and for not having the strength to quell the heresy. For our failure, you have suffered."
The sunlight bathed them, almost scorching from the heat emanating from her. Her golden greaves rapidly clicked on the ground. She stood in front of the man who had been addressing her this entire time. "Elder Alexios."
He looked up at her, squinting in a feeble attempt to stare directly at the Avatar to no avail. As he bowed his head once more, he could feel the toga cloth on his shoulders was suddenly caught in an iron grasp. He was harshly jerked to his feet which was followed by a resonating slap that echoed through the entire agora complex. Leona readjusted her grip his toga and drew him close to her, the heat radiating off of her presence starting to bubble his skin, "How dare you?"
She heaved him to the floor. Her voice roared in volume, "How dare you? How dare any of you?!"
The hoplites moved forward, and situated themselves next to her. The one with the sword reached out to Leona and touched her shoulder. She pulled away from him as she continued questioning the council before her, "Why was I not consulted?!"
Alexios blinked in sheer shock. The other members of the council stared, dumbfounded at the events that were still unfolding. He tried speaking, "It is your w-"
"No!" Leona yelled. She slammed her fist on her chest, the metal breastplate clearly rang from the intensity. "I was not consulted! I was not asked! I am not my predecessor! How dare you assume such things?!"
"She…she is a heretic. We have only-"
"The Lunari were wiped out and slaughtered by the Solari! Why?!"
The elder blinked again, "Our ancestors followed the decrees of the Solari Avatar. No heretics can live. We spoke about this many ti-"
"Not their name! You never said their name, you all called them the unbelievers, the heretics, the corrupters of man, not the Lunari!"
"Would a name change anything? They are what they are. It was by her decree that-"
"Hers! Not mine!" Leona steethed. She kept her fists clenched tightly at her side, shaking from the emotion running through her.
Silence fell upon the crowd. A few moments later, she barked at them, "Where are her notes?"
"Her notes!" Leona raised her voice. The heat exuding from her was overly apparent now. The hoplites were sweating bullets while the unprotected council could feel their skin had become noticeably tight and dry, quickly compounding in intensity.
She yelled again, "Where are Diana's notes?"
"They were burned, as in accordance-"
"Where were they?"
Elder Alexios opened his hands pitifully, "Ah…well…we assumed her old room. With the failure of the original Council, we decided to take the next steps as in accordance-"
If looks could kill, Leona would have bisected this man. "Were you successful?"
"Yes or no," she snapped.
"…We are unsure," the man admitted. "The door refused to open, even to its key. Even the strongest men of the Vanguard could not budge it. She must have done something to the door, so we tried feeding the fire underneath the door. We saw the light of fire, we could smell the oil burning, and we let it be."
Leona looked at the hoplites behind her, "…Which of you helped them."
Three armored men stepped forward. She pointed at them, "And you did not tell me? You knew, and you did not tell me?"
It was strange, to see Leona of all people so angry. The marble floor where her boots touched liquefied as she walked away from the group of men and hoplites. After some time, a couple of hoplites trudged after her, the one with the xiphos commanding the others, "See the Elders to their homes and whatever other business they have."
A quick turn around a familiar corridor, down a hallway, the Radiant Dawn stormed down the halls. Her radiance did not dim until she stopped in front of a certain door. She grabbed the handle, turned it and pressed her entire body weight into the frame, only to have the door easily swing open. She stumbled in and barely managed to catch herself. Once she regained her balance, she observed the scene before her.
The only traces of fire were the ashes that rested on the floor, the oil soaked rags - blackened and fragile. A breeze swept into the room through the open window. The fire had received enough oxygen to build and to consume the room, especially considering it was resting on top of piles of scattered papers. The entire room was covered in papers. The walls had maps of the sky, the constellations with degrees and connecting lines between some star configurations and clusters, with numerals also having been scribbled upon the paper; various phases of the moon and other astronomical graphs. Making her way over to the desk, she saw notebook after notebook that seemed to blanket its entire face. Jars of ink laid scattered about, the black liquid now completely dried upon the numerous pens and brushes Diana once wrote with. Leona reached over and grabbed one of the books and flipped it open. Her hazel eyes widened as she read its contents.
Aside from various calculations, degrees, some weird jargon coding and other geological and astrological sketches and writing, it was also Diana's diary. Leona randomly read aloud one of the final entries,
"I'm close, so very close. I can feel it, I can sense it. The texts, it's all there. It's all there. The puzzle, need to unpuzzle. Why is it in here? I don't know, I need to solve it. I'm so close. Why is it there? Can't care, not now, after I'll think, now I need to dig deeper. It's there, it's there, I swear it is, I'm not sure how much longer I can hold these books. With Leona in the League, the Elders are becoming nervous without their sacred texts. Understandable, really, but still... Just a little longer, I'm almost there, and then I can prove it. I can show them, I will show her. Her face, I can't get her face out of my head, that look she gave me. I can't, I need to prove it not only for myself, but for her now. I need to be right, I can't get those eyes out of my head, those pitying eyes. I'll show her, I'm not crazy, I am right, I know this. I have not asked for much, but please, please dear Sun, please dear Moon…For my sake, for her sake, let me be right...Please…"
Leona hiccupped, pressed her free gauntleted hand to her lips and shut the book closed. She placed it on the table and walked over to the bed. It was neatly made and did not look like its occupant had been missing for the months she had been. She sat on it, sinking into the mattress. Leona removed her gauntlets and buried her face in her hands, while her armored shoulders shook with silent sobs.
A hand rapped on the open door, followed by a man`s voice, "Radiant Dawn? May I come in?"
Leona collected herself and looked up. She nodded to no one in particular and attempted to speak authoritatively. For once, she failed, her voice coming out as a whisper, "Come in."
The hoplite walked in. His shield was strapped to his back and his xiphos blade rested snugly in his scabbard. He looked around, his expression obscured by his helmet, "...Couldn't even clean up after herself, huh?"
"Look at this…" He pointed around the room, "Papers everywhere, there's some ink there, I think I see a dust bunny family under the bed just waiting to repopulate the land, she could have at least organized herself before leaving."
Leona simply stared at him. The hoplite scratched the back of his head awkwardly, his fingernails rasping against the metal of his helmet, "…And that's what happens when I'm put on the spot."
She smiled and shook her head, "Sorry, it's just…I'm not in a very humorous mood."
He sighed and nodded his head back at her, "Yeah, I know, I just…I don't like to see you sad, Radiant D-"
"We are alone, Molik," she interrupted, her voice flat and humorless. "Please, call me Leona."
The hoplite grabbed the only chair in the room, dragged it over and plopped himself into it. "I've never seen you so angry, Leona. Ever."
"…Did you know?"
Molik froze and looked at Leona. She pressed the question again, "Did you know?"
"…Not entirely, no."
Leona reached over and grabbed his hands, gripping them. "Why didn't you tell me?"
He shook his head, "I didn't…I didn't put two and two together. I did not think it was important. I'm sorry, Leona. For the pain it caused you, I am sorry."
"…I spoke to the Summoners afterwards."
She continued, "I asked them why they did not test her, why did they not change her memories as they had done for most others? They were surprised I didn't realize. They told me it was because I was her test, there was not much else they could have done to someone who lost everything and knew it. To do anything more would have been sadistic."
Leona closed her eyes and bowed her head. She released his hands and remained still on the bed. She eventually spoke, "Molik, can I ask you to leave me be? If you see any more of the Vanguard, let them know I am here, but I do not wish to be disturbed. Please close the door on your way out."
He silently complied. The hoplite got up from the chair and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him with a quiet click. Leona looked around the room, taking in the full extent of the various diagrams and notes strewn about. "For what it's worth, Diana, I am sorry…"
Leona got up from the bed, walked over to the desk, dragged the chair into place, and sat down in it. She grabbed another leather bound book, flipped it open, and started reading.
The clear night sky allowed the waning moon to shine down upon the travelers. A young man walked alongside two donkeys pulling a wagon, within the wagon were a young woman and two children fast asleep, a boy and a girl. He cursed at himself for staying for so long in Demacia, the roads at night were not safe. He weathered a rough guess that they were thirty minutes away from their farmstead. He recognized the place marker at the crossroad, breathing a sigh of relief. He was right, they were almost there.
The rustling of bushes pricked his ears. He looked over to his left and saw five figures emerge. Moonlight glinted off of sharpened steel as they sauntered over to the wagon. The man sighed, he was so close to home.
The shadowy figures walked up to him and pointedly spoke, "Your money or your lives."
The blade was pressed against his throat. A disgruntled voice commanded, "Just hurry up. Tonight's been a long night."
He looked over at the woman in the wagon, only hints of fear in his voice, "Dear, do we have any more money from today?"
The woman, her entire body tense, nodded her head, "J-just, just twenty coins."
"…What." The bandits looked at one another, throwing their hands up in exasperation, "What are we going to do with twenty coins?"
The man made a very poor choice in telling them what they could do, "You could just get jobs instead of robbing people, you damn hooligans."
This earned him a back fist to the jaw. The woman muffled a scream, which woke her children up. They looked around hazily and became catatonic with fear. The bandits pointed at them, "Didn't notice the brats. Noxus still buys them, right?"
"Yeah, they do."
"Hand 'em over."
The children's father got back to his feet and wobbled over to the wagon, shaking his head defiantly, "Take the twenty, leave them alone!"
Their blades glinted as they neared the family when the little girl let out a loud squeak of panic, clamping her mouth shut. One of the bandits laughed, "Y'see? Yer only scaring them the longer you delay this. C'mon, either your kids or something equivalent. Wait, y'got food, right? That works, all of your food or yer kids."
Before the young father could respond, his daughter did so for him, "I-I'm not scared of you," she squeaked out. She pointed behind them, "I'm-I'm-I'm…There's her."
Before the bandits could scoff at the young girl for trying such a trick, their ringleader suddenly lost his head. His body slumped to the ground, dark blood flowing freely from the open cavity of his neck. The other bandits scrambled away from him. A cold, uncaring voice spoke up, "The moon sees all."
The blood was flicked off the viciously curved blade. A woman with long flowing, platinum blonde hair stepped into view and was instantly bathed in the moonlight. She looked at the family, "Will you embrace the moon as your nightly protector, the one who illuminates your path in the dark of night?"
The remaining bandits snorted and laughed. More figures emerged. A total of eleven men now surrounded the moonlit woman. One of them snapped their fingers at her, "I saw you today, in yer League match…Diana, right? The heretic? The hells are you doing here?"
Diana looked over, her grey eyes boring into the man's soul, judging his very existence. "What do you think of the moon?"
The bandit rolled his eyes, "I love it. I love it with all of my heart. Now f-"
His head promptly flew off. Diana looked at the remaining thugs, "Those who lie will die. What is your choice?"
Several of the men unsheathed flintlock pistols, aimed them at her, and fired. Diana did not respond, the bullets exploding far before they made contact with her. The moonlit knight's entire body seemed to emanate moonlight as she took a single step towards them, three of the men closest to her exploding in a shower of pale silver and crimson mist.
Two of the remaining gunmen fell to the road while the others attempted to flee. Flicking her wrist, silver light ripped up from the ground beneath them, reminiscent of the waning moon above them. The moment the light touched the fleeing men, they were promptly dismembered. The last words one could hear if they were close enough were their whispers, "S-so…so…cold…"
She craned her head and stared at the two who did not flee. They prostrated themselves in front of her, "We love the moon! We love it! We'll worship it, alright?! Please, just, just let us live!"
"The world has no need for liars, while the moon…" Diana raised her blade as she strode towards them, "Has no need for cowards who watch their comrades die."
The family watched the bloodbath before them, shaking and quaking in fear. The father was making several gestures over his chest while the young mother clutched her children, trembling. Diana looked over at them, her dead eyes staring at them. Her icy voice flatly stated, "It was not the Sun that watched over you this night. She was absent as always. Remember, and pay your respects to the Moon."
With that, she walked away into the darkness before them. The family could actually see her progress, from the faint, silver light emanating from her very being. He reached into the wagon, grabbed a small package and muttered, "Respect, respect, ah…only got bread. Wait, yes! Smoked meat, oh thank the gods. H-hope this's enough, oh gods, please let it be enough." He placed the bread and meat at the foot of the signpost at the crossroad, muttered a few more thanks before he whipped the donkeys to get moving.
The early beams of sunrise rose over the mountainous plains of the Rakkor people. The golden wheat fields swayed in the wind. A hoplite, wearing the gold and purple colors of the Solari Vanguard, walked down a gravel path. His shield rested on his back, while his xiphos slapped against his leg every other step. He made his way towards a little homestead. The Solari hoplite could see an elderly man already in the fields, tending to his sheep. Molik paused briefly before the front door, then politely rapped his knuckles against it.
A gruff voice barked at him, “What is it?”
The door swung open. A man stood in the entrance of the house, his chest and shoulders brushed the wooden frame of the ajar door. His face was occluded by the darkness of the house, he grunted and pointed at the hoplite, “Stay here.”
He reappeared a few minutes later clad in his own set of hoplite armor. His, however, was not only a brilliant crimson with a large black mantle, but it belonged to an ancient Rakkor warrior as was the tradition of their people. He had earned it through the Rite of Kor. His shield and spear were of no special note in the way of appearance, save for the hundreds of runes etched onto the metal of the weapon. His face was now hidden by the heavy helmet resting on his head, save for the bright, burning amber eyes that seemed to shine from the darkness. “What do you want, Molik?”
Molik bowed towards the larger, more intimidating man, “It is about Leona.”
“Go away.” Pantheon shoved past the man, stepping out onto the path. He looked back and growled at Molik, “How did you know when and where to find me?”
“You always went for your run at this time, and I expected you to still be living in your parents’ home. Rakkor tradition and all, and I sort of assumed you hadn’t found a w-”
“Assumptions get you killed.”
“Then you will listen to what I have to say.”
Pantheon thumped his spear onto the ground, he impatiently waited for Molik to continue.
“Diana has returned.”
“…Who? Should this name mean something to me? You are interrupting my run.”
“She is a heretic.”
Pantheon shrugged his shoulders, “So?”
Molik’s voice raised slightly, “She killed the Council of Solari Elders and destroyed the Solari temple.”
“Point being: So?” Pantheon shrugged, “The Council has been replaced already. The dead are dead, it is not the concern of the Rakkor. These are Solari matters.”
“She is a danger to Leona. She joined the League.”
“Then I will kill her if I need to, just as my occupation dictates. She is no exception.”
Molik stepped towards Pantheon, his tone becoming angrier, “She may kill Leona, Pantheon! And not in the League, she seems possessed by the idea of killing Leona again and again! The League’s not going to satiate her, she’s going to want more! You can see it in her eyes, she’s…she’s crazy! She’s insane, you can see it so clearly. And if she returns to the Solari, I don’t know if I’m strong en-”
A short, abrupt mocking laugh erupted from Pantheon. He spun his spear about lazily, his deep voice heavy with derision, “No, you’re not. Otherwise you wouldn’t be asking me, and you wouldn’t be so nervous.” He pointed at Molik with his spear, “What did you lie about to Leona, Molik? Are you lying to her, to me, or to yourself? What’s got you so on edge? Your body language screams your guilt, you little worm. Go back to the Solari. I owe nothing to them, or to you.”
The Solari hoplite stomped over and grabbed the Rakkor hoplite’s shoulder, “What is wrong with you?! She could die! Pantheon, I’m begging you, she’s your friend! Our friend! I need your help, to protect our friend, we need to-”
“Our friend? You and I are not friends. She and I are not, ‘friends.’ She is the Solari Avatar, I am the Artisan of War and you are a member of the Solari Vanguard. I need to do nothing but to kill those I am pointed at. If you are so concerned, now it is too late. This could have been avoided a long time ago, all you had to do was die in the right place at the right time and this could have been avoided,” Pantheon spat back. Slapping the hand away, he growled at Molik, “Leona’s chosen her path, I have chosen mine, you have chosen yours, and whoever this Diana woman is has done the same. There is nothing more to be said on the matter. All of you, live with it.”
Pantheon turned around and readied himself to start his run. Molik laughed, shaking his head, “We were friends, Pantheon! The three of us were, and she’s in danger! I need your help, please!”
“She was in danger once before. You were content with letting her die back then.”
“I…I-I couldn’t help myself, I couldn’t stop the tears! I’m sorry, Pantheon, I can’t express that enough, but it was Leona, how could I hurt her? How could I think of ever hurting her?” Gesturing to the Rakkor, he questioned, “What would you have done? Could you have killed her?”
“That implies you or I had the skill to do so. Even if I had said skill…” Pantheon shrugged once more, “I would have let her kill me. I would have thrown myself onto the end of her blade.”
“That’s why you’re needed!” Molik yelled. “Someone is coming to take away our avatar, our light, our sun! She may die!”
Pantheon stopped at this statement. He rested himself on his knees, slowly got up, faced Molik, and shook his head, “…You don’t get it, do you? Tch. Go crawl into a well and die. She has chosen her path, as I have chosen mine. If she dies, she dies.”
With that, Pantheon took off for his run, weapons in hand, leaving Molik behind.
Molik threw his hands up in frustration. Despite his heavy armor and weapons, he could see that Pantheon had become only a speck in the distance in mere moments. Trudging along the path, the Solari hoplite had a long walk back.
Leona's eyes fluttered open. The morning sun rays shone in through the window. She raised her head up from the desk. She looked down at her feet and saw the literal flood of papers and books scattered about. Leona stretched her body, she felt sore: She had fallen asleep while studying the notes and journal entries Diana left behind. Unfortunately, she was still wearing the full attire of the Solari avatar, heavy as it was. The chair screeched back. She stood up, removed her diadem and stared out at the morning sun. Closing her eyes, she let it bask her in its incandescent glory.
Piece by piece she removed the Solari armor. She took off all of the metal components until she was left wearing only her modest, violet bodysuit; her golden greaves and the boots that accompanied them. She rested the stripped armor onto the unused bed. She sat back into the chair, grabbed another book with a feather sticking out of it, and continued where she had left off.
***Author`s Note: A friend of mine, KuzAnn, once again edited the dang out of this. Thank you, Kuz, for all of your work!