Thank you for reading! Me and my coauthor Darinost are gradually combining forces and blogs, so the joint comment section for our stories is currently located on discord! Come on in and let us know what you thought, we don’t bite.
“Luxanna, are you even listening?”
The blonde girl hadn’t realized she had let her eyes slip shut again. She bolted properly upright on her horse, straightening to a proper stance. “Yes!” she said, a little too quickly. “I was just… thinking.”
“Just snoring, you mean,” her older brother said as he looked her up and down, appraising her. Garen’s eyes seemed like they saw more than she liked, but then they always did. “Another late night with the children?”
Lux, despite herself, started to yawn. “I wasn’t sleeping,” she protested, trying to cover her face with her forearm and somehow make it look natural. It was only when her arm was raised halfway up that she realized that she was bringing her hands into view and quickly brought them back down to the saddle, resisting the urge to glance down and check. “And yes. An Illuminator’s work is never done, you know that.”
“They work you too late,” Garen said, a note of annoyance creeping into his voice. “You’ve been home well past the first bell every day this week.”
The blonde tried not to look worried at how close of attention her brother was paying her… this was a dangerous subject. “And is a member of the Dauntless Vanguard so relaxed in his duties that he can spy on his sister?” Lux put a teasing tone in her voice, one that she didn’t especially feel. “What would your brethren think?”
Lux fluttered her eyelids at him, and Garen chuffed out a breath before turning back. “Just saying, sleeping in your saddle is a bad look for a Crownguard.”
Garen wasn’t looking, so, holding her breath, Lux glanced down at her hands. Perfectly normal hands in perfectly normal white gloves… looking just the way she would expect them to. She breathed out a sigh of relief as she followed after her brother.
“I keep trying to tell you, sister,” Garen continued with the speech he had obviously been in the process of when he found her sleeping. “Being a member of this family doesn’t just mean privilege. It carries responsibility. You… all of us… are a light for the city, someone to look up to.”
A twinge of bitterness swelled in her throat. A light. Right. Lux tried to make sure none of it showed in her voice as she answered, however. “I know, brother…”
“‘Ello strangers,” a woman’s clipped voice, cutting through Garen’s lecture.
Lux looked over at the pair of women that were her saviors and smiled, reminding herself firmly not to wave no matter how much she wanted to. The woman leaning against the building, hand raised in greeting, was a tall one… she was nearly as tall as Lux’s brother as she stood and waited. Fiora Laurent didn’t wear the standard armor of a member of the Dauntless Vanguard, but the emblem on her pauldrons still matched the one Garen wore proudly, marking her membership in the elite Demacian unit every bit as much as her ornate sword did. It wasn’t usual for the head of a noble house to be a member of the guard, but then nothing about the Laurent family was normal.
“Were you waiting for us?” Garen asked, stopping his horse alongside where the woman waited. “How did you know where to wait?”
The brunette woman who had been waiting with her chuckled. “Oh, we had a pretty good idea,” she admitted, gesturing upward. Even before Lux looked, she knew what she was going to see. Far above, almost invisible against the sky and the light, a blue form circled above. Quinn smiled. “Hello Luxanna.”
Lux made a small face at her, then looked down to check her hands again. Still no glow. Perfect. She swung down from her horse, heading over to the woman and abruptly hugging her “It’s really not fair that you don’t have a longer name to be mocked with,” he said, more cheerful than she had been in hours at seeing two people that she could legitimately call friends.
“Now now,” Fiora said, even as Lux ignored any sense of military formality to embrace the taller woman in turn. “You are supposed to be a good Crownguard… what would people say?” The words were harsh, but the twinkle in her eye was anything but… filled with gentle mockery of what she had heard of Garen’s lecture, no doubt, and amusement.
Lux squeezed a bit harder. “Then I might as well give them something to talk about,” she said with a grin, but she did back off to a more respectful distance a second later. It was good indeed to see her friends, and their timing couldn’t have been better… but even so, Lux had to admit that their presence together here was worrying. “Thanks for rescuing me,” she said with a sidelong glance at her brother, trying to hide her concern.
Quinn rarely came into the capital… her friend preferred it outside the city. It meant that Lux only really got to see her when she had something to report to command, or she had orders to carry out… and with her standing alongside a member of the Dauntless Vanguard on duty, waiting for her brother, it was likely the second option.
“That’s what I do,” Quinn said easily, the ranger brushing back her cloak as she stepped away from the wall. In the distance, the bells began to ring, signaling the passing of the hour and making Lux realize it was later than she thought, and she winced inwardly. If she was going to make her rendezvous with her instructor, she would need to slip away from her brother before too much longer. She hated the bells.
“We have an assignment,” Fiora said, her eyes on Lux’s brother. “The magehunters have a report of a coven gathering in the woods.”
Garen groaned. “Again?” he growled, suddenly sounding less like a paragon or an older stern brother and more like an annoyed young man. “What was it this time… a stable boy tripping over a pail of milk and startling himself, or some local children hanging stick dolls from a tree?”
“And Quinn is to be our guide,” Fiora said, definitely not answering Garen’s exasperated question, though she did raise her eyebrow.
“I still don’t see why you have to go,” Lux protested softly… only partly because she would rather her friends not have to leave and to get to speak to them for longer, even if it meant she would probably need to endure more of her brother’s lecture. “Even if there was someone there, if they are just living in the woods alone they obviously aren’t bothering anyone. We could just ign-”
Garen grabbed onto her arm, squeezing it… hard. He was a big man, and far stronger than her, and there was something insistent, almost panicked in his grip. Lux jumped, and Garen looked sharply left and right. “We’ve talked about this!” he snapped, some tension sneaking into his voice. “It’s the law, Luxanna. And you will not question it where someone might hear a Crownguard doubting the law, do you understand me?”
Lux winced, startled… and afraid. She’d lost what little control she had. If he pulled her hands away… “Yes!” she said a little bit too quickly. “I… I understand!” She pulled her arm away as unobtrusively as possible, hoping it didn’t look suspicious as she put her head down in what probably looked like an appropriately contrite posture. “I won’t do it again, brother.”
“It’s just us, Garen,” Fiora said, eyeing Lux with sympathy.
“She shouldn’t be saying it all in any company,” he insisted. “She certainly had been taught better… she shouldn’t even be thinking about it.”
“I’ll just… I’ll just go,” Lux said regretfully. “I… uh…” She looked down again. “I have more work to do. Illuminator stuff.” She nodded to Quinn and Fiora, and hoped she’d be able to see them again soon. Then she rode off, leaving her friends and her brother behind for them to go off and help the magehunters catch more people just like her.
Lux knelt on the ground, still annoyed by how she’d made a fool of herself with her friends even hours later. The narrow slits for windows the dark room had didn’t let in much light, but even that had faded long ago when the sun had gone down… and yet, the room was still brightly lit. The torch she had carried down here lay smoldering in the bracket, forgotten and long since burned to a black nub while the light in her hands did all the work.
Her… affliction… was nothing but a problem, and by the gods she wished she could just get rid of it… but neither she nor her mother had ever found a way. If the magehunters ever learned, not even her family would be enough to protect her… it would be a black mark on the history of the Crownguard family. Of course, the family would endure the shame… it was far less likely that she would.
Magic was strictly forbidden in Demacia… It might have happened more than a thousand years ago, but Demacians were keen students of history and the kind of devastation that the Rune Wars left behind them was not easily left behind. The ground that had become Demacia had been razed to the bedrock by the power of Rune Magic… and her people had sworn: never again.
That was why the magehunters existed. Mages were born every day, all over the world… coming from parents with magical talent, or born from latent potential like she had been, and they weren’t allowed in Demacia. For their own safety and the safety of others, mages were imprisoned down here… in the vaults beneath Demacia, where their dangerous ability couldn’t hurt anyone else. Kept away from civilization and the light of Demacia, anyone with magic ended up locked in the magehunters’ dungeons. Deep beneath the fortress castle, the prison cells of the magehunters were the last place any mage wanted to go.
So, of course, that was exactly where Luxanna Crownguard – secret, barely controlled mage and potential disastrous embarrassment to her family – had bluffed her way into.
For the 23rd time.
“You’re losing focus again, Little Light.”
The voice was rich, deep, smooth… despite his lack of food, lack of exercise, lack of sun, he always seemed so strong in his cell. Lux jumped, coming back to herself as she realized he was right… her globe of light was wavering while her mind had wandered, and her hands were glowing again. That was annoying at the best of times, but given that it was precisely the reaction she was trying to control it was especially infuriating now.
“Sorry!” she said cheerfully, flashing Sylas a smile she didn’t especially feel as she glanced over, hiding her frustration. He was right where she had left him – in his cell, of course, and still reading the book she had brought him, leaning against the bars while he browsed the magical text she had smuggled down. Sylas of Dregbourne was… not what people said about him. He wasn’t the murderer people tried to claim at all, it had all been a misunderstanding. Lux knew that… she knew he had a good heart. That his own true crime was the same as hers… being born with magic.
This was just one example of how mistaken people were about him. He was helping to train her how to use her powers, how to control the always-before uncontrollable stream of power that poured from her, that left her always in danger of being discovered. “Only when you see it as its most terrible can it be conquered,” he had told her. She was starting to understand what he meant. Holding the power back didn’t suppress it… it only made it come out elsewhere, or harder, another time or place. What she needed was to harness it in small, harmless ways. To… spend it, rather than accumulate it.
And yet, the orb was still wavering.
“You’re still afraid of it, Little Light,” Sylas said, using the familiar name he had given her on their first meeting. When Lux looked over, she saw that the man wasn’t even watching… or rather, he was telling what was going on by the changing light filling the room while he read. “You can’t be the master of something you fear.”
“Just stop fearing something I’ve been ashamed of since I was a little girl,” Luxanna said softly, a little bit of years and years of fear and frustration tempering her usual, cheerful voice. “Just don’t worry about something that could ruin my life in a second just by showing up in the wrong spot.”
She expected him to chastise her softly, like he usually did. Sylas didn’t. Instead, he was looking at the book with something that actually approached awe, eyes surprisingly wide. “Amazing…” he said softly.
“Sylas?” Lux asked. She peered in at the book he was reading, and guilt again warred with her usual emotions as he looked at it. Most of the books she had brought him she had stolen from her own library… histories or cultural works, or even a few simple books on magic. Sylas had taught her lessons right out of some of them, translating them to her unique powers with surprising adeptness.
This book, however, was different… it hadn’t come from her family library like the others had. Several days ago, she and Sylas had fought while he was training her, and their argument had revealed her family name to him for the first time – Crownguard. The protectors of the King. To Sylas, she was as much a part of the people who had ruined his life as the mageseekers were. So, to salve her guilt, she had instead exchanged it for another one… she had broken into the mageseeker vaults and found some of the primary texts of magic that he had been asking for. She was… getting rather blase about all the rules that she was breaking to get these lessons, she supposed, but she had to learn to control her power, didn’t she?
“Sylas?” Lux asked again, stepping forward and standing on tiptoes to see what he was reading about. It was a complex diagram… and she recognized the form of Durand’s Colossos, Galio. “What, you hadn’t seen Galio before?” she said, a smile spreading over her face. He really was quite impressive… even if you didn’t know his secret, which she certainly wasn’t going to share with Sylas or anyone else. So far as she knew, she was the only one that statue had woken up for in centuries, and she had no intention of betraying his trust to anyone, not even someone like Sylas. “He’s amazing, isn’t he?”
The captive mage shrugged, the petricite shackles and chains he wore clinking as he did. “He is,” Sylas agreed. “Shame I’ll never see him.” The excitement on his face was gone now… looked back to normal. Despite his words and their dire implications, he didn’t seem upset. He seemed… maybe a little antsy. He jumped when the bells began to ring… Lux could even hear the things from down here, sounding the time. Telling her that she was nearly out of it. She hated them. “I think I’m done with this,” the captive mage told the blonde girl. “You can get it back to the vaults before someone realizes it’s missing.”
Sylas stuck his hand out of the cell to hand Lux back the tome, and as she took it he held onto her hand, meeting her blue eyes. “Thank you for this,” he said, his calloused hand rough on her smooth skin. “I won’t forget it.”
“Happy to help!” Lux said, giving him a smile that could have lit up the room all by itself. “…And thank you, as well,” she said as she beamed, incredibly grateful for everything he was teaching her. “May the light guide you, Sylas!” She turned around and strode from the room, eager to get the book back to the mageseeker vault. She didn’t turn around as she slipped out the door… if she had, she might have noticed the way he was hiding his hands behind his back.
As they began to glow.
The instant Lux crept back into Crownguard manor, she knew that she had been made. The door was roughly pulled out of her hand by a house soldier hiding in the darkness, and the sound of the door banging shut behind her hadn’t faded before the gas lantern was turned up enough for her to see her Aunt Tianna waiting for her, her face in a cold, expressionless mask, and her eyes were hard and angry as they met Lux’s. “Secure the doors,” she said, voice frozen as a Freljordian winter, and around her other soldiers moved, locking the mansion doors shut.
Tianna was a titan of a woman in her silver and white armor trimmed in blue. Lux wasn’t a small woman and the golden crown of Tianna’s hair still stood more than a full head over her. The woman was every bit the soldier, and looked like she could lift a copy of the younger woman in each hand. A commander in the Dauntless Vanguard, she was one of the four or five most powerful people in Demacia, and while she had never said anything about it, Lux suspected that her mother’s older sister was one of the very, very few people who knew that she was a mage. Tianna stared at the guilty Luxanna, still half crouched down from how she’d been sneaking back in… the two of them looking at each other in pregnant silence for long seconds before the Lady of the house spoke. “Lux,” she said, blue eyes two blocks of ice. “This isn’t Silvermere… it’s the capital. I might not be your mother, but I’ll be damned before I watch you drag our family name though the muck.”
Lux swallowed. “A-aunt Tianna… I don’t know wha… I was with the Illuminators. We were-“
“Save it,” she hissed, her voice the snap of a door slamming shut. “No, you weren’t. Instead of going to see your betrothed you sneaked off to the prison to visit some… lowlife.”
The mention of her impending marriage to Prince Jarvan made her sick, but now wasn’t the time to fight that battle. “It’s not like that!” Lux protested. “He’s not like that.”
“Sylas of Dregbourne is a criminal, Luxanna… a murderer and a wretch,” she said evenly, her eyes narrowed like arrowslits.
“You don’t know what its like in there!” Lux insisted. “They’re keeping him li-”
Tianna’s armored fist struck the stone of the wall. “Damnit, stupid girl!” she snapped. “Do you have any idea of the damage you’ve caused? You’ve brought scandal and ignominy to this house!” Lux could hear the strain of the armor in her fist as she tried, and failed, to relax her clenched hand. Then Tianna turned away from her. “Fortunately, I’ve fully capable of fixing the problem, and making it go away.”
Lux felt cold. “What did you do…” she whispered… but Tianna didn’t look at her. Instead, she turned to two of the house soldiers.
“Keep her here,” she instructed them, turning resolutely away from Lux. “She will remain in this house until Sylas is dead.”
Two of the soldiers grabbed her arms and started pulling her away… it was the only reason she didn’t fall down. “Dead!?” Lux all but shouted as she was pulled away. “You can’t do this! Aunt Tianna, stop!”
“This is for your own good, Luxanna,” the blonde woman said, turning to stride away even as Lux was pulled the opposite direction. “You’ll see that soon.”
“You can’t!” she shouted as the soldiers pulled her into her room, closing the door on her. She was back at it immediately, pulling at it, but she heard the click as the lock closed on the other side. “Execution? Is that who we are!” she shouted, pounding her fists at the door. Dimly she realized her hands had started glowing beneath the gloves, her focus and control failing her as she lost herself to panic and anger. “You can’t kill him! I won’t let you! It’s barbaric! It’s-“
“It’s too late, Miss Luxanna,” a guard said from the other side of the door. “Settle down. It’s as good as done.”
Frustrated, Lux turned away from the door, looking around the familiar room. The thick stone walls were mocking her almost as much as the narrow window did… too narrow to slip through, too tight to squeeze her way to the other side like she had when she was a little girl. In a panic Lux searched the room, looking for anything she could use to force the door, not even considering that there were two armed guards on the other side, or that they would see her glowing if she showed herself right now.
At last, she threw herself down on the bed, tears staining her eyes. They were going to kill him. He was the only one who had tried to help her, the only one who had helped her understand and control her magic, and for that they were just going to kill Sylas… and there was nothing she could do about it. There was no way out.
Lux stared down at her glowing hands. Unless… she used her gifts.
Lux knew what it could do. It had saved her life before, as a girl, protecting her from the wolves. Usually it was only at risk of exposing herself… but she had seen what it was capable of. Her family would be furious. How would her mother explain this?
But she couldn’t let him die…
She wasn’t sure how long she had been there, lying down, conflicted, before she moved. Slowly, determined, Lux stood. Without consciously having made a decision she realized that she had already fallen into the breathing patterns Sylas had taught her… her focus turning inward as the light spilled from her hands, forming glowing orbs of energy in her hands that were oddly hypnotic.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Light. Breathe in. Breathe out. Light. With each breath her power grew stronger, the light brighter, until she had to squeeze her eyes shut… and then until it was so bright and she couldn’t even tell that her eyes were closed anymore. “Miss Luxanna!” a voice came from the other side of the door. “What’s going on in there!”
They had seen the light coming from under the door. No matter… it was too late to worry about that, anyway. “Tell my mom I’m sorry about the house,” she said, her voice flat, emotionless, focused.
“The house?” the guard said. She heard the sound of keys as he went for the locks again.
Too late. “She’ll know what you mean,” Lux promised. Then she held her hands against the wall, flattening them against it…
And let go.
More magic and energy that Lux had ever been able to summon before poured out of her in a condensed beam of light, the first time she had ever consciously chosen to use her magic. The wall didn’t so much break as it evaporated, like a glass of water poured onto a hot griddle. And it was loud… air rushed away from the light and the stone was transformed to expanding gas with a roar of released energy… and then she had a clear path out in the early morning.
Behind her, still on the other side of the door, the guards cried out. Lux didn’t have time to wait… she pushed through the new door she had made before the one behind her opened, running across the ground as quickly as she could. She had to make it to the royal square in time…
The press of people in the square was already thick before Lux made it. Every time she needed to squeeze between two people she wanted to curse and shove, but as damning as the crowd was it was a good thing… the fact that the crowd was still here meant that she wasn’t too late. That it hadn’t happened yet.
She was, however, barely in time. “Sylas of Dregbourn,” a white and blue robed minister said as Sylas was brought out of the prison behind the stage, bare chested and chained. He might be barefoot in rotting pants and dragging heavy weights behind him but the muscular man walked with quiet, solemn dignity as he went to his death. “The council has found you to be an incorrigible practitioner of magic, as well as a conspirator against the crown, and a possessor of restricted materials.”
A man carrying a greatsword walked onto the stage as Sylas was forced to his knees, and Lux frantically pushed forward. No no no, this was’t fair… they were using the books that she had brought him to condemn him? That was so wrong… She pushed harder.
“It is my duty to see you executed by headsman’s sword, before the protector and all who are present,” the minister continued as Sylas was forced down onto the block and chained, his head resting just over the edge. Silently, the large soldier with the sword put a mask on.
And he began to lift his sword. “Wait!” Lux screamed as she continued pushing closer. “Wait! Stop the execution!” The people on the stage didn’t respond but the people around her, blessedly, reacted to her screaming by turning towards her, and moving out of the way. It let Lux rush forward at a sprint. “Stop it! STOP!”
Lux saw it the moment Sylas raised his head, and looked at her… a small, hopeful smile on his face. “Little Light…” he mouthed.
“Young lady,” the minister said as she pushed her way free of the crowd. “I beg your pardon?”
Lux, out of breath, panted, trying to recover her composure and dignity. “Stop it!” she huffed. “What you’re… doing… it’s wrong!”
“This is the lawful justice of-“ he started but Lux ignored him, climbing up onto the stage during the moment of hesitation.
“Justice? This is no justice,” she said firmly. “Everything you’ve heard about Sylas of Dragbourne… all of the tales, all of the rumors. They’re all lies! Or… or at least not the whole truth,” she insisted. “He’s a mage, yes…” she said as she stepped up to him, putting herself between Sylas and the executioner before turning to look at the crowd. They were who she really needed to convince here… if she stop this execution and didn’t win the crowd they would probably just lynch him, and the pressure from having them on her side could turn the tide. “But he’s also a human being! One with a heart, and a soul, just like any of you.”
“That man’s a monster!” A man from the crowd yelled.
Lux tried to swallow down her anger… and her fear. In a way, this was her greatest fear. This was the mob she was afraid she would face some day, saying such things about her. “He’s what we’ve made him,” Lux insisted. “All he did was be born a mage. And the way Demacia treats people like him…” Like me… “Maybe that’s what makes monsters.” She moved her gaze over the crowd, looking for sympathy. Looking for understanding.
And finding none.
She took a deep breath. “It’s…” she whispered. “It’s something I know well,” Lux continued a bit more strongly. “Something I’ve struggled with, because I… I, Luxanna Crownguard… am…”
Because I am a mage.
She swallowed… and said, “His friend.”
The moment the words left her mouth she wanted to vomit. She wanted to take them back more than anything. She cast her eyes down in shame… but it was too late. “She’s a mage lover!” an old woman howled from the crowd.
“Shame on her!” a man yelled. A chorus of boo’s accompanied them as the crowd’s anger rose.
“Miss Crownguard,” the minister said, adjusting his sleeves as he looked at her from behind his ceremonial half-mask. “Your compassion is touching, but it cannot stand in the way of Justice.” He waved to the guards. “Let us proceed.”
One of the soldiers grabbed her and began to pull her off the stage. “No!” she shouted. “Sylas!”
“Luxanna!” he called back, straining against his bond.
Lux wasn’t sure why she did it. She kicked the soldier in the leg, staggering him. As he swayed, she wrenched her arm from his grip, running back across the stage and rushing over to the condemned mage. A murderer he might be… but he had killed to defend himself. And children. They persecuted him for being the criminal they had made him into.
And she couldn’t save him.
Lux fell to her knees before his face, holding him as she reached up to hold him… resting her head against his. “Sylas,” she sobbed, tears running down her face. “I’m so sorry…”
Beneath her, Sylas slightly shifted. “So am I, Little Light,” he said fiercely.
Then he started to glow.
Just like she did.
Lux stared, eyes wide. “What-“ she whispered as the commotion rose all around her, the crowd screaming even as the minister shouted to kill him, kill him now…
And Sylas exploded with light.
Lux was flung away as the stone of his bonds shattered, dissolving away much like her walls had done as light – her light, poured from Sylas. “Run!” someone from the crowd screamed. “Ahh! Run for your lives!”
Slowly the blonde pushed herself to her feet. The minister was dead… lying on the stones, his face a mask of blood and half crushed from a flung piece of masonry. Sylas stood free, his chains no longer attached to anyone as he looked out as the fleeing, chaotic crowd all around him. “Yes,” he growled. “Run. Run and know how it feels.”
His shackles, the petracite shackles were glowing with her light, shining almost white hot with the magic. He stood forward, practically radiating energy. “Sylas!” Lux choked out as she pushed herself up and towards him. “No!”
He turned towards her, a small, savage smile on his face. “You know the truth, Luxanna,” he said, his voice harder than the stone he had shattered. “You know they will never accept us. There is only one way to deal with them.” He lifted one hand towards the crowd and it began to glow with her magic, gathering power. “And you have shown it to me.”
Then, as Lux screamed in horrified protest, he cut loose, and people died by the hundreds.
“No, no, nononononono!” Lux said, holding the woman’s head up as she coughed blood. “Please, it’s not safe here. You have to get up, miss. Please!” All Lux could see was blood and fire, all she could smell was smoke and the dust, and the worst part was it was all her fault.
She didn’t know how it had all gone so wrong. Had this all really started from blowing off her engagement to Prince Jarvan IV to go study with Sylas instead? She supposed she could see it from Aunt Tiana’s perspective… she wasn’t sure which would be more embarrassing, to be found out as a mage or to be found out consorting with the most reviled murderer alive.
But she had raced across the city to reach the public square before they executed him. She had stood over him, spoke on his behalf. She could still remember the look on his face of hope and… and devotion… when she arrived to speak for him.
And the look of sorrow on his face when she had done everything except out herself as a mage to try to save him.
Then light – her light – had poured off Sylas in a wave of death and destruction that had left little behind.
Lux looked up. He still stood there, his petricite chains glowing slightly with the radiance of absorbed magic as he stood untouched amid the corpses of his oppressors like some kind of prophesied savior, silently gloating over the dead mageseekers… and much of the crowd.
“Sylas…” she whispered as the woman she was holding the head of coughed once more and then went suddenly, horribly still, collapsing down onto her hand with terrible limp finality. “Why?” Tears rushed down her face, the blonde woman unable to hold them back. “How could you do this?”
Sylas looked down at her… and he smiled. “They were going to kill me, Little Light,” he said, utterly unconcerned by the death that surrounded him. “They were never going to accept us. Any mage. Thank you for giving me the means to fix this.”
“I…” Lux swallowed. “I… what?”
“Your light made all this possible,” he said, smiling at her almost like he was… proud of this, like he wanted to share it with her. “Your secrets showed me how. Your presence saved my life. This is as much your victory as mine.”
Fat, ugly tears erupted from her eyes as she looked at him. “Victory!” she choked out, wanting to scream in frustration. “What kind of… this is no victory in this! These people are innocents, and they’re dead Sylas!”
He chuckled. “No one is innocent, Luxanna,” he said calmly. “But that doesn’t mean no one is beyond forgiveness. Your family held our kind down for generations… but I forgave you. Now, do not cry, Little Light. From this day forth, our kind does not shed tears.” He held out a hand to her. “Together, we can save this kingdom… we can build a utopia. Be my Queen, Luxanna. With you by my side, Demacia will at last truly be the City of Light.”
Lux stared at Sylas in growing horror. “I… Sylas, I can’t! I won’t! I-“
“DEMACIA!” The battle cry turned their heads as her Garen, leading a unit of the Dauntless Vanguard, charged into the clearing heading directly for Sylas.
The mage smirked. “Always with the interruptions,” he said, smirking. Then he stretched out one hand towards the oncoming soldiers. Lux screamed a warning, but the words were lost in the humming blast of energy as her light swarmed from his hands, pouring over the oncoming soldiers like the tide.
“Stop it!” Lux begged as the light blinded her, growing brighter and brighter until she had to squeeze her eyes shut. Even then, she could see silhouettes of people against her eyelids, brief shapes where the light was not… and she could see them come apart. “Sylas, stop it! Stop!”
At last, he did… not because he had chosen to, she feared, but simply because he had run out of stolen magic to use against them. When the light finally faded and Lux opened her eyes, most of the unit of soldiers was gone… slagged armor and scorched bones all that was left of them. Only her brother stood there still, smoke rising from his armor but intact. His cape and tabard had burned away completely, and his hair was definitely shorter than it had been, but he still held his sword before him, softly glowing in the reflections of the fading light.
Lux stated mutely in shock. Dead. They were… they were all… She felt guilty that her first thought was that she hoped her friends hadn’t been among them. They could have been… she hadn’t had time to see. She hadn’t had time to see and now they were… they were…
“You… should have stayed… in your cage,” Garen growled, advancing back forward with fury in his eyes. He moved slowly at first, but quicker with every step until he broke back into a run, charging at Sylas as quickly as he could.
Sylas, without a weapon of his own, employed the petricite chains attached to his shackles, moving them like whips as he lashed the ground around Garen, trying to keep the soldier at a distance from him as he circled and gave up ground. He couldn’t fight the soldier head-on and he knew it, but her brother was having difficulty getting in close.
“What… have you done with my sister!” Garen growled at him, contemptuously batting a chain away with his sword before he quickly gained some ground, slashing in an awkward, clanging parry of the next sweeping strike of the chains.
“Done to her?” Sylas mocked, teasing. “I’ve done nothing to her but set her free. And she came to me, oh brother of hers.”
With a roar, Garen charged. Even the faintest glow from the chains was gone now, and Garen didn’t fear to be hit by them… catching one hit on his arm with a grunt, he pulled Sylas toward him and drove his sword down at his head with the other arm. Desperately, the escaped mage put up both hands before his face and caught the sword on his shackles, blocking it. The force still drove him to the ground, however, leaving him prone and helpless before Garen. “And now,” he growled out as he glared down at the man, “for the innocent lives you have taken twice over, you will meet Justice at last, mage.”
Sylas, howesver, wasn’t looking at Garen… he was looking at his petricite shackles. His glowing petricite shackles. “Oh my,” he said, chuckling softly. “You don’t know, do you?” He laughed harder as Garen raised his sword… and then fire rushed out from him in a wave. Garen was struck full in the chest, blasted back twenty feet by the power of it.
Slowly, Sylas forced himself back unto his feet. As he did, a glowing sword of sheer magical energy appeared in his hands and he strode forward with purpose. “You Crownguards are just full of surprises,” he said softly. “And to think, you never guessed the truth.” Sylas raised the sword. “And now, you never will.”
“Stop!” Lux screamed, scrabbling over broken stones and broken bodies to throw herself protectively onto her fallen brother. “No! Sylas, please… stop!”
She looked up at him, meeting her eyes, seeing the fury in them. For long seconds, she thought he was going to strike her down on the way to kill Garen. Then he huffed out a breath. “Fine,” he snapped. “Consider this a kindness.”
He spun, and the sword vanished into a wave of chaotic energy that he directed back against the walls of the mageseeker dungeon, blasting open the walls of its prisons. “Don’t waste yours on people who loathe you.” Without looking back, he began to stride towards the broken prison… towards the imprisoned mages he had just freed. “Come home, Little Light. You belong with me.”
Lux wasn’t big, and her brother was heavy, but she got one of his arms over her shoulder and heaved anyway, slowly working him up so that she could drag him out of the courtyard and away from the furious mob that was soon to fill it. “No,” she whispered, determined. “I don’t.”
The city was burning and it was her fault. People were dead and it was her fault. Her brother lay unconscious in a hospital bed, unmoving, unwaking, dying, and it was her fault. Lux had to fix it.
It had been so easy to get into the palace… no one had even been guarding the walls. Lux had thought that was a good sign. Now, she wasn’t sure.
She had been the one to figure it out… to warn the others that Sylas wasn’t going to run. That the Demacian palace, made of petricite, stored untold amounts of magic the same way his shackles did but far, far more. That he didn’t intend to free… he intended to overthrow Demacia. He intended to kill the king.
The mageseekers and the Dauntless Vanguard intended to stop him… but they weren’t the ones who had let him free. Her magic had done that. This was her fault. And she had to be the one to fix it.
She couldn’t use magic around Sylas… it was too risky. Instead, she had strapped a crossbow to her back and looked around for a vial of petricite elixir. She couldn’t find one, however… Sylas had destroyed the mageseeker compound far too thoroughly. In the end, she had simply wrapped Petricite bracelets around her wrists and hoped it would be enough, and then snuck into the palace.
It was easy. It was simple. She just had to not think about how she was going to fight off an army of mages and Sylas with a crossbow. She could do this.
She was too late.
Lux stared in shock at the bodies of the King and Prince as Sylas stood over them, presenting them to the assembled crowd. He was cheering, giving some kind of speech about how this was the start of a new order, how things were going to be different. Lux barely heard him. She just kept staring at the evidence of her failure, the bodies of people that she had been supposed to protect.
Crownguard, indeed. Garen had never come out and said it, but Lux would do it for him. She was unworthy of the name.
“Enough!” she screamed, raising the crossbow and pointing it at the half-dressed Sylas from behind, still wearing just the remnants of his prison clothing and his shackles. No shirt, no shoes, no armor to protect him. The mages around him were slow to realize the danger among them, reacting only when it was too late… Sylas was in her power, now. More than one took a step towards her before they realized that it was too late for that and backed down.
Slowly, Sylas turned to look at her. “What are you doing, Little Light?”
“This ends here, Sylas,” she said, tears running down her face. “It’s over.”
A few mages again began to move towards her and Sylas held up both hands. “Wait. She’s a friend.” The angry mages seemed reluctant to back off, but Sylas took a step closer to Lux. “Isn’t that right, Luxanna?”
Lux had a hard time keeping her voice from breaking. “I used to think we were,” she said, trying not to sob… trying not to think about the Lightshield bloodline laying dead on the stones of the palace. “Now I know better.”
“I created a world where you would be free to shine, my dear Light,” he said. “And yet… you don’t shine at all now. What have you done to yourself?”
“You told me you weren’t a murderer,” Lux forced out, keeping the crossbow on him.
“You and I dreamed of a better world, Luxanna,” Sylas said, his voice reasonable. “We discussed it for hours, and hours. Now here we are, together… building it. Join us,” he said, reaching for her… reaching from the crossbow. “Free yourself. Let your light-“
Lux shot him.
Sylas was stunned, but not stunned enough that he didn’t half-turn his body. With how he had been reaching from the crossbow, the move put his shoulder in the way, and her bolt stuck deep into his left arm. Lux backed up rapidly, even as Sylas reached for the bolt, already struggling to reload. “Why…” he said, seeming genuinely shocked.
Lux could hardly believe it. “You used me,” she said, tears dripping off of her chin as she forced the next bolt into place. “You betrayed me, Sylas… you used my magic to murder people.” She met his eyes as she locked the bolt in and turned the crank. “I’ll never forgive you, and I’ll never let you do it again.”
She saw it as Sylas’ eyes went from confused, to hurt, to furious. “You filthy little ingrate!” he snapped, whipping one hand towards her and sending one of the glowing chains sailing for her like a lash. It snapped the crossbow in two like kindling as it exploded with the detonation of magical power, and would have done the same to her if Lux didn’t throw herself away from it, sprawling on the floor. “After all I’ve done for you?” he roared, reaching down for the prone girl. “I’ve set you free! I’ve made it so you no longer need to fe-”
Lux drew her dagger from her belt and stabbed it down through his bare foot. Sylas screamed and kicked at her arm, but it was a weak thing… she easily backed away.
“You little…” Sylas growled. “Why are you idiots standing around! Grab her!”
Lux was rushed by a dozen mages, not one of which was less than nearly twice her size. She fought but the outcome was determined the moment the first one got hands on the prone girl… they dragged her up, her armor scraping against the stone as she was pushed helplessly against the wall. “So you’ve chosen your side, then,” Sylas hissed furiously. “Too bad it was the wrong one. Your family is dead. Your king is dead. Soon, your country will be dead. And as for you, you leave me little choice but-“
“SYLAS!” Garen howled, breaking through the line of guards. “We finish this!”
Lux’s heart thrilled to see her brother back on his feet. “Not your sword!” she yelled as she was held by the mages. “Use something el-“ One of the mages punched her in the stomach, stealing her breath, but Garen had heard her… he smashed one of the mages to the floor, taking up his poleax and heading for Sylas with it.
Sylas caught the first swing on his shackles, snarling. “Back for more, Crownguard?” he spat. “This time, no one will save you!”
The two men fought, as Garen tried to keep Sylas from touching another mage or the petricite, and Sylas tried to keep the warrior’s blade from his body. All around, other members of the Dauntless Vanguard were fighting mages, but Lux couldn’t pay attention to that… She watched her brother fight for his life with Sylas, growing tenser and more stressed with each passing second. Slowly, Garen drove the injured mage back, wearing him down, driving him back towards the guards… and Lux.
The rebel mage sagged to his knees, exhausted, and Garen stood over him. “This ends now!” he growled.
Sylas turned his head back to look at Lux… and smiled. Then he reached out behind and touched the brilliant glowing bracelets on her wrists… the petricite that had been absorbing all the power she had given off during her stress. “Thank you, Little Light,” he said with a grin. Then power exploded from him.
Garen, bound in place by loops of light turned to shackles, collapsed to the ground first. One by one, other members of the Dauntless Vanguard followed until soon everyone was dropping their weapons, surrendering to the rebel mages and their leader.
And he had used her magic to do it… again.