[LRF Contest] Flickering Light

Two towering mountains of stone; slated slopes offset by fine, powdery mist. Dragons and beasts carved into marble pillars, stretching their fingers towards the sky. Sacred arches flow into gentle passageways, leading to a room wherein a pale-haired girl peered into a golden basin. She gasped and awed at the onslaught depicted in place of water: conflict between two armies, a Northern Empire and a Southern Kingdom caught in dispute between land and resources. The young Empress extended a hand to dip into the weft of imagery, the blood of war shifting into iridescence as she retrieved a small model—a dark haired assassin, armed with a crimson scarf, a hand curved around a single, shining blade. The vengeful killer, painted down to the grey colours of his eyes. A bark, then a paw landed on the side of the basin. The girl tilted her head, grinned, and ruffled a spare hand into the hound’s fur. “Look, Warwick,” she struggled to contain excitement as she waved an arm about, whispering loudly, “the mortals are fighting each other.” Luxanna, for all her magic, was still a child in the eyes of her caregivers—the twin hounds of both ends of the mortal plane and their own celestial heavens. Nasus’ statue overlooked the two observers; while not necessarily the elder, he is still the wiser, calmed through years of solitude. The second statue depicted a larger variant of the Empress’ current liege, Warwick, poised with teeth and claws outstretched, in preparation of bloodlust. Footsteps echoed from the door. Her eyes widened, and as she turned on her heel to face the door, the figurine slipped through her fingers and crashed into the bottom of the basin below. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the Warring Kingdoms below, a man studied the stained parchment, small red flags, notches and crude drawings depicting the vicious terrain of his divided homeland. The general of the frozen South, walker of the bitter wastes and the forever undying, Tryndamere, hundreds of miles from home. A large sword sheathed to his back, armour undone and left in the corner for a momentary reprieve from war. His armies charge had led him to the border, the warmth of nearby festivals seeping into his skin. The Lunar Revel, in honour of the three wraiths feared and revered by common folk of the cities North. Justice, he recites from memory, Justice, Vengeance and Betrayal. The cursed maidens and their maker- he had no care for their false gods, monstrously depicted as they may be. However, in the barest simplicity of the problem, Ashe had coaxed him into participating; red envelopes, the little pigs allowed to wander the streets, golden fires lit in honour of the Lunar Wraiths to keep the creatures from their homes, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the return of those who had gone on their pilgrimage, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mythical Azir’s palace. Carefully guarded by soldiers adorned in ruby and gold- with the exception of his chosen, the rare few, twin knights of jade armour said to be blessed by any they passed. And yet… “Xin,” he murmured at the footsteps, hurried through the wide doors, “Xin, what is-” His response is the echo of screams. He catches note of the smoke on the breeze that filters through the- the door falling off it’s hinges, the arrow that protrudes through armour. Red drips to the floor. He narrows his eyes and retrieves his sword, marching out onto the battlefield. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “I don’t do business for free, y’know,” the Coin Emperor huffed, motioning to the rows upon rows of shiny trinkets, depicted with sketches of dragons, snakes- and the newest symbol of the Revel, pigs, strapped to the underside of his hanfu. “It’s seven-hundred gold for info- I should be chargin’ ‘ya extra for the rudeness.” “That’s stupid.” Sejuani snorted. Bristle made a similar noise, brushing his snout against his mistresses side in search of the sweet buns hidden under her sash. “Stupidly expensive.” “Sejuani,” Vayne deadpanned, donned in traditional attire drastically different from her usual hunting gear, “you’re being ridiculous. Take it or leave it.” Tahm Kench scowls, a large tongue dropping to curl protectively around the prior-mentioned gold. The most valuable off his belongings, coated in a thick layer of saliva. “Listen to the lady now, won’t ‘ya?” “Shut your mouth, you little-!” “We’re _looking_,” a warning look was shot into the general direction of her partner, “for a young lady who supposedly crossed this area.” Glaring at Sejuani, the other grumpily withdrew a small container of red packets. Initially ignoring the colour, a single eye widened at the glistening gold when the seal was torn. He began to salivate. “Do we have a deal, demon?” Tongue returning to the creature's mouth, setting into a grimace. “You sure you won’t go any more? Ah’m offering some pretty valuable stuff-” “Talk. While you still have teeth.” Vayne hissed. Wincing, Tahm Kench looked back and forth between them. Finding no sympathy, nor hints of weakness, he sighed. “Saw ‘er by the Bronze River- little thing, in white and gold. On the Lunar Revel, can you imagine?” Sejuani raised an eyebrow. “What’s that got to do with anything?” “Divinity. Allegedly, at least. Considered heresy to wear it for the twenty-three days… we’re either tracking someone noble; or someone who’s arrogant enough to think they are. The chance of it being a celestial are low, to say the least.” “The flames went out though. They- Wukong said that the Jade Palace was in an uproar.” “Apologies to cut the lovely conversation short,” the Coin Emperor inclined his head, “but I absolutely must be off. If you’ll excuse me.” Before either of the two could interrupt, the dark waters spiralled from the creatures centre, pulling him down with his beloved gold. As if on cue, the lantern at the far end of the street flickered out. Vayne seized Sejuani by her arm, shoving her (and Bristle) along. Shapes edged their way out of the light and the two hurried their pace, just in time to see a splash of light illuminate the cobblestones- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -and she hit the ground running, a golden glow shining on every rock in the sidewalk. Sparing a glance back-, no, keep running, Warwick howls somewhere in the distance, she can hear thunder striking metal. Nasus- where is Nasus? A chime, ringing bells. The glint of silver, blood on a purple magatama. Lunar Wraiths, amidst the darkness, slitted eyes peering through. She tightens her grip on her staff and she prays that it will be enough. She doesn’t see the chains coming- deep brass, hidden in the murk. The light bursts, then dwindles out, leaving nothing but smoke and cracked gold.
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