######(Entry for the 2019 Lunar Revel Fanfic Contest)
**The Twelfth Year. **
Long ago, a great Emporer of Shurima wanted to select 12 elite guards. These guards would be granted great wealth and prestige in exchange for their service. To select his guards, Emporer Azir proposed a race, and decreed that the first twelve to cross the finish would have proven themselves of sound body, and thus worthy of the position.
With the challenge so simple, and the reward so great, naturally there were many determined to enter, and the competition was fierce.
The Plague Rat, crafty and determined to win all the mouldy cheese in the Empire, employed all his tricks to delay his competition. He was almost delayed himself by a deep river just before the finish, but the stubborn Minotaur, who was not so much affected by the Rat's other traps had no trouble. Seeing his chance, the Rat stayed hidden and hitched a ride across the river, jumping off the Minotaur's back and snaring first, his burly transportation finishing in second place.
The Pridestalker and the Cottontail Scout were the swiftest, so without the Rat slowing them down they nimbly bounded across the river and finished in third and fourth in quick succession. The Star Forger and the Serpent's Embrace, while not as swift, were crafty and agile (and greedy) in their own right, taking the obstacles in stride and snaring fifth and sixth place respectively.
The Shadow of War was as fast as the Pridestalker, but the competition didn't take kindly to an evil spirit vying for the personal guard of the esteemed Emporer, and harried and slowed at every turn, but he still took seventh place for himself. The Eternal Hunters had agility on their side but weren't all that used to actually *running* being normally an incorporeal personification of death. They came eighth.
The Monkey King's attempt at a head start backfired somewhat spectacularly (in retrospect, a cyclone might not have been his best plan), and instead, everyone else got a headstart on him, but being able to navigate the treetops at speed was enough to catch up and secure ninth place.
The Curator and the Cantankerous Cavalier kept a respectable pace, the Cavalier trying to pull ahead and The Curator slowing him the whole way. A final spell earning the Curator tenth place, and the Cavalier in his final attempt to hurl himself across the line faster celebrated eleventh place by introducing his face to the ground in a most spectacular fashion, startling his mount who ran off into the underbrush with a disgruntled squawk.
The Fury of the North was pushing for twelfth, less concerned with where she finished so much as just finishing in that first twelve. It was practically a sure thing, until a swiftly spinning spiky ball of scale and flesh came hurtling out of the river, water and earth flying everywhere and knocking The Fury off her boar. The Armordillo, somewhat shaky and evidently a bit dizzy, rolled just a little bit lopsidedly over the finish line, stealing twelfth with a furious victory cry!
And that is the story of the Lunar Revel and the Emporer's guards, and why this the twelfth year, was dubbed the year of the Armadillo.