LeBlanc

The earthen cobblestone of the floor was quiet as she passed through the cellar. For many years this was her place of refuge, a dark escape from the fracturing political table of Noxus and a respite from the other magicians of the Rose. But it was not a refuge now—in fact, it was more like a shadowy wheel of nostalgic memories that taunted her from somewhere deep inside her chest. These were memories of laughter and light hearts, the kind of images that get pressed away behind the chainmail of leadership. She had forgotten these memories to protect herself, she now realized, as she came to a star-point junction in the dark tunnel. But from what? she wondered. The darkness and the silence of the cellar crept their fingers beneath the fringes of her robe, gently suffocating her. For a while she closed her eyes and let it take her, the incredible heaviness of secrets, of war and betrayal and—most of all—of magic.

Her eyes suddenly opened, but there was only black around her. “Show yourself,” she commanded. Her words were slow and deliberate, almost beautiful.

She peered into the dark as if blind, straining to hear, but the only sound that answered was the beetle skitter of her robe’s hem against the cold walls. The shadows lingered around her ankles for just a second too long as she moved forward into the northernmost tunnel of the junction, but she was aware of this. She did not bother to look behind.

“And why would I do that?” A voice like death rolled throughout the tunnel, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

LeBlanc whipped around and the fine embroidery of her robe followed, shimmering even in the deep dark. With a thrust of the staff in her hand a light erupted from its core, casting the cellar in crackling halos. The dark voice—a voice of the Void, she was certain—screamed in horror. When the energy faded her staff glowed with the afterimages of the spell, a guttering candle in the blackness.

As she moved back towards the star-point junction, the shadows bled and crept away from her as if they were living. They twisted towards her like a thousand hungry hands and mouths, but they would not penetrate the soft glow of her aegis.

“You will show yourself to me, or you will die.”

“As you wish,” the voice said. At the edges of the light, the shadows were suddenly sucked inwards and upwards in an overflowing black plume. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the silhouette of a giant man—a sentinel shadow with eyes as red as Shurima’s sky. It was impossible to see him or know that he was there for too long: every time he breathed, the shadows hissed and folded into themselves in their own terrible refractions. The odd fact that shadows could ever behave like the light coming from her staff scared her to death, but she did not let that fear be known to the monster.

LeBlanc lifted her staff like a lantern to get a better look. “You’re ugly,” she said.

“And you, disrespectful,” the shadow man said.

“Disrespectful? You forget whose house this is.”

The shadow man laughed. It was an insufferable sound like bats whining, and it seemed to grow into a symphony as it bounced off the walls of the tunnel. “Runeterra … is your house? All the people of this dying world—your house? This is not your house any more than it is mine, or The General’s.” He paused. “Or the Du Couteaus?”

“Get out.” The light from her staff began to dim.

“You would throw a man out just for remembering ancient beauty? Before you destroy it?”

“You are no man,” she said. The light was almost nothing and the shadows now grew bolder, stronger. LeBlanc could feel the heaviness enclosing her, drowning the afterimages.

“And you are not a creature of light!” His insane laughter started again, this time so loud that it caused her to flinch backwards. The light from her staff had almost completely extinguished, and now he was advancing towards her, his ruby eyes flickering underneath the veil of shadows that oozed over him.

Then there was a brief moment of stillness like a storm’s calm. In her mind the two or three seconds—or whatever it was—seemed to last an eternity. The smoky afterimages of her spell appeared to stretch on forever and forever, and she saw phantoms rise from the dying half-light. She watched their twisted faces and heard their gentle moans as they writhed and wretched at the ceiling of the tunnel, reaching for a dim heaven. These were faces she knew, burning, begging for mercy; but she did not give mercy, did she? She was not a woman of such a low virtue. Mercy was for angels and kings, and she was neither of those things.

And then something jolted inside her, either the pang of reality or of certain death—she wasn’t sure which. The shadow man was breathing on her face, his ghost-tongue tracing a trail across the crevice of her jaw.

She exploded backwards, putting several yards of distance between herself and the monster in an instant. The air between them hung with ropes of ethereal afterimage, the light product of her magic. “Stop me, then,” she said.

The shadow man pursued.

She flew through the northern tunnel, blind in the dark but still able to see. Behind her a colossal thicket of tarry blackness crashed forward, occasionally tripping into the walls of the cellar with a loud rumble. Her magic allowed her to move faster than the shadow man, and every few seconds she pulsed just out of reach in a fine mist of light, confusing him, causing him to roar in agony and annoyance as the shadows clawed a path towards her.

As she rounded a corner she tripped, snagged by living darkness. She fell onto the stone and her shoulder cracked. Her staff flew from her hand and she could hear the ancient runes in its core shatter. The shadow man’s heat stung her as he materialized above her, his eyes as wide as suns and scorching her slowly, painfully, from the inside.

“Goodbye,” she said.

And just as the shadow man’s mass came down towards her in a rush of warmth and sound unlike anything she had ever heard before, a radiant crescent of light burst from her chest. The light pierced through the shadow man and he instantly dissipated, vaporized. His ashes whipped around the dust devil vortex created by the light, and after a few seconds the radiance collected itself into the form of chains.

“Take this place,” LeBlanc said, but her voice was lighter, heavenly. It did not come from her mouth, but from the light itself. “May Noxus burn and be reborn.”

Five chains crashed into the walls of the tunnel. They began to rapidly snake through the dank stone, creating glowing land-veins in the foundation of the cellar. They traced a path back towards the star-point junction, whirling down each path, crumbling earth and stone into fine sand.

The ground rumbled. Outside, the Noxian High Constabulary—the headquarters of the Grand General and his Council, a building made of the darkest and toughest stone in all of Valoran—cracked down its center.

There was an ancient grumbling, the sound of history, perhaps, as the Constabulary began to fall.