Previous Update: A Scientist’s Decision
Shield of Light Edit
This lore and gameplay update is part of Interactive Lore Event V: The Beginning of the End.
King Jarvan III stood before a table bearing a model of Summoner’s Rift, in a great hall awash with the sound of a hundred earnest voices echoing against stonework. The hall’s cavernous immensity softened what would elsewhere have been a roar to a murmur, a murmur which warmed the room as a fire warms a hearth.
The King had gathered his Champions and Summoners here in the wake of Demacia’s narrow defeat on the Fields of Justice in the tournament the day before. He wore simple summer robes of pale cyan, the golden crown upon his head and the steel broadsword at his waist the only burdens of court regalia he chose to bear among his closest friends and advisors. Spread out across the room were dozens of tables and diagram boards, with which they labored to devise a strategem to end Zaun’s control over the dark sand.
“Show me that again,” he said. He had heard of Malzahar alone vanquishing both Vayne and Leona during the tournament, and now began to understand how this could have transpired.
The Summoner before him nodded, then moved a token painted with Malzahar’s masked visage back a bit further from the green velvet which represented the brush. “Though flanked, he is near enough his true target, Vayne, that this becomes a situation of peril.”
The King leaned forward, one hand steadying the pommel of his sword and the other tracing a circle around the Malzahar token. “And the situation becomes one of peril, as you put it, the moment she enters this region.”
The Summoner bowed her head. “Just so, my liege.”
He frowned. “Then it is this zone of which we must be mindful, when facing this mad prophet. Though he be outnumbered, yet the danger may be fatal, if within its bounds one should stray.”
Vayne tipped her glasses down. No longer obscured by the ruby lenses, her eyes curiously studied the diagram. “I see.” She glanced at Leona, and lifted the glasses back into place. “Then that was our error: we were in the danger zone.”
Leona frowned, and seemed on the verge of reply when the room fell silent.
King Jarvan felt an undeniable presence by his side, and heard the collective whisper of the room’s astonished occupants once more remembering to draw breath.
He turned his head and saw Ceruleana, Demacia’s patron goddess of the ocean, standing just beside him in her cloak of stormcloud gray. Ceruleana, who with a wave of her hand had obliterated the Noxian fleet on its way to Ionia.
She spoke urgently. “I fear I have failed this world. Until this moment, I had not gauged the true extent of Zaun’s recklessness. Now, it may already be too late. You must march, now, with all your armies and allies into Shurima. Zaun’s mines must be destroyed, or the Void will consume us all.”
Jarvan felt the color drain from his face as she set her hands on his shoulders. “The Ionians speak of balance. But understand this, Jarvan: it is not a balance, nor a tipping scale. It is a branch, a branch of the world-tree, and as it bends this way, then that, all the same it begins to break. It began to break when we first sought to bend this world to our will.”
She held out her hands, beseeching him. “Now, you must protect this world. Demacia must be a great shield of light, against which the darkness shall break. No other can stop it. I am powerless in that cursed desert.” Slowly, she smiled, a beautiful smile such as he had never seen before. “Demacia’s spirit is strong. The power is within you, within you all. You must march to Shurima, there to exorcise the madness Zaun has wrought and cleanse this land.”
If a goddess can be surprised, then Ceruleana seemed surprised to find that stunned silence was her only answer.
At last, Jarvan III heard himself stammer. “It would be war. It would, the League, it could destroy the League itself, and peace with it, forever. We can win on the Fields. To do as you ask would plunge Valoran into another Rune War.”
Her eyes grew sad. “All the same, it must be done. Far worse a fate than even a Rune War awaits this world, unless the mines are destroyed at once. Zaun’s picks and shovels need scrape only a little deeper to stir up a portal whence shall come Chaos itself. You think that you have seen the Void, that what you met outside the walls of Noxus was the madness that presses against the borders of reality. But what you saw was but a tincture of the Void dripped into a worldly shape, there hardened and dulled into little scuttling creatures not so different from the simple things you hunt for sport.” She glanced sidelong, taking in all the room’s occupants with a flick of her eyes. “I fear no thing of this world. But I tell you that I am afraid now. If what I have seen should come to pass, and it shall if you remain any longer idle, then there will be no salvation for this world. For any of us.”
He shook his head, and felt his composure begin to return. “I take well the gravity of your words, and surely this matter warrants our immediate consideration. And yet, my lady of the waves, you must understand that I cannot so readily commit Demacia to a course which—”
His breath left him in a ragged gasp.
Her eyes flared. “I must understand? What must I understand, mortal king? What must your lady of the waves understand?”
An icy wind lifted him into the air and slammed him down onto the table. She spoke, without the beating-heart pauses of human speech but only the swelling immensity of a tidal wave. Her soft voice became a roar, never halting, only churning over itself until it shook the walls.
“You speak to me of gravity but I have seen the coming horror and were I not Ceruleana I would bless your mind with the sight and WATCH YOUR SOUL BURN!”
He saw her hand fall, and the gale crushing him against the table faded away. He rasped and wheezed for precious breath.
“If you will not heed my request, then you will obey my command. There is no choice here, Jarvan; there is no time for deathless games upon the Rift.”
She turned to face the Champions and Summoners once more. “Demacia is precious to me. If I could, I would go in your place, to destroy the mines. But my strength extends not to those sands, and I must command you to go there, to sacrifice your lives and even perhaps your kingdom. What friends I have among the spirits of the land I will beseech on your behalf.”
She looked sadly down upon the table’s model battlefield. “Go, and you shall go with my blessing. But refuse me in this, Demacia, and I shall forsake you as you shall have forsaken Runeterra.”
Then she was gone.
Jarvan III staggered to his feet. After several breaths, he gained the strength to straighten his robe and set his crown aright.
He looked out among his subjects. “Friends, I would have your counsel in this, though the final burden be mine to bear.”
Summoner Kaiden spoke first, and with conviction. “Attack.”
Summoner Raxien respectfully dissented. “Even a goddess cannot know all things; she herself said as much, when she said that she had not realized the danger until now.” Several others quietly nodded along. “The Codex Oraculorum is emphatic in this: no infallible source of prophetic foreknowledge has ever been discovered, and there is much reason to believe that such an infallible source cannot exist. If we could be certain that what she said was so, there would be no choice but to attack. But as we cannot be certain, I propose that we first seek victory on the Fields of Justice.”
Summoner Bloodslear spoke in agreement. “If we can win before the League, there will be no need for such desperate measures. If we attack, and we fail, Demacia itself may fall. We would betray Runeterra to the lunatic rule of Zaun’s corporations.”
Summoner Jer gestured to the broken table. “Much of what she said of ‘cosmic chaos’ eludes me, but I gather it would be worse than corporate misgovernance. If Kalamanda was worth defying the Council for, then surely this is as well.”
And so the debate continued, until at last the King gazed up at the glittering pane of stained glass, on which was depicted the founding of the Institute of War. The last rays of daylight died upon the pane.
He did not take his eyes from the faded image as he spoke. “Send word to Piltover and the yordles. We march in three days.”
The Urban Legate was insistent. “Grand General, the praetorians are exhausted. You’ve kept the same men on rotation for two weeks of hand-to-hand combat in the midst of a civil war.”
Swain squinted at the page. He scribbled something out, dragging the quill’s nib off-point through the blob of ink in a downright barbaric way. He smirked, and gave the legate an absent-minded response. “Exhausted. Yes. Of course they are.” He scratched out another phrase and drew a small diagram mostly consisting of “x” marks.
He turned and gave the Legate the parchment. “Refresh them with these orders, then.”
The Legate read the sheet over. “Across the Ironhaft … twice? Or is that by halves? There to board a ferry and disembark at … ” He furrowed his brow incredulously. Swain watched him gathering up the courage to say something blunt, telegraphing his moves like an idiot with a broadsword. “You intend, perhaps, for them to seize Bloodstone Keep, by catching the rebels off-guard as they react to this business along the Ironhaft.”
Swain was distinctly unimpressed by his analysis.
“Exhausted troops don’t spontaneously attack fortifications,” he sneered. “I intend for them to be confused. I intend for them to lose control of the perimeter and fall back. I intend for the rebels to see an opportunity. I intend for the most cowardly of these traitors to come out of hiding and march with the rebels. Then I intend to rotate the reserve cohorts into battle and put their rebel heads on CHOPPING BLOCKS.” He slammed his palm against the table with more hatred than the Legate had ever seen from an executioner delivering a death blow.
The Legate paused to collect himself. He inclined his head. “I was about to protest that we have no reserves; that all our able-bodied praetorians are already on the streets. I gather that is not in fact the case.”
Swain grinned mirthlessly. “You’ll find the northern infirmaries are filled with remarkably plucky ‘patients.’ And, as it happens, that an axe and a suit of armor has been stowed beneath each of their cots.”
The Legate nodded. “Though I estimate you could have culled at most a thousand legionaries.”
Swain gave Beatrice a little scratch beneath her wing. “Do you see the one clear instruction in those orders?”
The Legate read it over again. “Open the eastern gate at sunset. … then I take it that Zaun is sending the HexKorps to reinforce our position.”
Swain stood. As Beatrice fanned her wings, he lifted his cane and pointed at a sealed scroll the other man carried. “Give me that.” He took it into hand, used his signet ring to lift the sealing hex in a little hiss of black smoke, and spread the thick paper out over his desk.
The Legate looked over at it. “It would seem that Demacia is marching on the Great Barrier. They could be in Shurima within perhaps a week.”
“Twelve and a half days,” Swain corrected, with barely a moment for the mental calculations. He dismissed the entire matter with an irritable wave of his hand, as though brushing off a chalkboard. “No. The timing is all wrong!” His eyes tensed.
The Legate considered. “It’s said that Summoner Kaiden has recruited Lucian the undead-slayer to their cause. I would presume that they are marching to destroy the Lich Queen Nefara at last. If so, then it is time to decide whether we wish to seek her alliance or speed her more permanent demise.”
Swain hardly seemed to be listening. He traced his finger slowly along the whispering parchment, gleaming with arcane seals and shadowy hidden messages. His response came in a distracted mutter. “Their prince would have been grandstanding about that for days in the Council.” Without looking up, he struck his cane against a black iron bell hanging overhead. The result was felt more than heard as the walls resonated with the call that summoned the Praetorian Legion to the Grand General’s chambers.
Swain kept talking. “There’s only one other thing in Shurima that Demacia wants: the mines. But it’s much too late for Jarvan to be making his move. There’ll be a Council envoy standing in his path by the time they get across the mountains giving him an earful of hear ye and be warneds; he’ll be losing … five percent of his troops in a forced march across the mountains just to be sent back again. He’s leaving Demacia virtually undefended against the Winter’s Claw. They’ll smell blood in the air before he’s even finished the crossing. And there are no troop movements from Piltover; the first train hasn’t left the station.”
Heavy footfall pounded up the steps.
Beatrice hopped from Swain’s shoulder and landed on the map. Her claws pattered as she paced about. Swain seemed to share her agitation.
“Even inbred royals don’t go senile quite this suddenly. Jarvan isn’t insane. He knows his window to attack the mines closes in a matter of days.” The Grand General pointed at the mountains. “I don’t know any way of getting that army across those mountains in less than twelve days that doesn’t involve necromancy.” He glanced at the Legate with familiar contempt. “You don’t either. What can you deduce from these facts?”
The Legate blinked in surprise. He looked down at the map. Beatrice glared at him, and squawked. He looked back up to Swain. “That Jarvan does.”
The door flung open. The commander of the Praetorian Legion burst into the room with ten of her soldiers behind her, answering the emergency summons, obviously expecting to find a roomful of assassins. Her sword was unsheathed in her right hand, and her left hand blazed with black fire.
Swain turned to them. “ATTENTION!” The well-drilled soldiers seamlessly stepped into line from their combat footing and stamped the hafts of their axes into the floor.
“Soldiers of the Praetorian Legion! The rebels will attack by sunset. The HexKorps will arrive through the eastern gate with instructions to follow your commander’s orders. As one force you will slaughter every last rebel. Your first targets are to be the aristocrats, the layabout academics, the meddlesome wizards. Anyone who brings me a rebel Summoner’s head will have their name read with distinction before the High Command. I want to see REBEL GUTS on my doorstep.”
His eyes gleamed; above the line of his scarf could be seen the suggestion of a grin. “The remainder of our forces will be deployed at once to Shurima. You will HOLD Noxus. These rebels are staking their lives on the wager that they are stronger than you, smarter than you, more Noxian than you. You will collect those stakes, and the streets will run red with your spilled winnings.”
The legion’s commander raised her sword in reply. “BLOOD FOR NOXUS!”
Demacia marches its army to the Great Barrier.
The mightiest army in Valoran stood before the immense mountain range called the Great Barrier. King Jarvan III rode to the fore astride a white pegasus armored with enchanted silver.
The pegasus swept out its wings and rose up into the air. The King of Demacia held aloft an amulet given to him by Janna, who was called the Storm’s Fury.
“Demacia comes at Ceruleana’s command, to vanquish the demons of the Void! We march to Shurima, there to lay down our lives that we might protect Runeterra, its people, its spirits. For we are Demacia, the shield of light against the darkness, the courage of the innocent, the judgment upon the cruel!”
The winds began to whistle, and then to howl. A gust snatched the amulet from Jarvan’s hand. It vanished into the clouds, which began to part.
Priests chanted as Summoners knelt, pressing their hands to the earth.
Lux watched in astonishment as Garen drew his sword. He began to walk inexorably forward toward the sheer rock face, as though under a spell. Two Summoners followed him. A knight of House Crownguard leaned down from his horse. “Begging my lady’s pardon,” he whispered, “but what is Sir Garen doing?”
Lux, for once, had no answer. She looked up as the winds split the clouds. Later, she could only describe it by saying that the sky burned blue, tongues of something like fire piercing the wisps of cloud and pulling them into the blue infinity.
Garen struck his sword into the ground and knelt, bowing his head. Lux sensed a strange old magic coursing through the rocks and dirt, toward her brother. When they wave reached him, every cloud in the pure blue sky had been seared away, and a column of light flashed down to illuminate him, between the might of the earth and the brilliance of the sun.
Garen lunged to his feet, blade in his hands, and charged headlong toward the mountain.With one great overhanded swing, he struck, and cleaved the rock apart.
The blow tore the mountain in half. Boulders crashed and a cloud of dust filled the plain, like blood gushing from the chest of a slain foe. As the wind swept it aside, the coughing soldiers saw the path opened before them, and their Champion turned to face them.
“Soldiers of Demacia, march with me!” Garen’s blade sang as he held it high. “FOR THE KING!”
The army raised its weapons as one.
Next Update: The HexKorps