fifth day of the first month of Spring, an hour before sundown
There was a hushed commotion in the large stone room as scribes and assistants rushed from one corner to another with quills and parchment while the guards kept the curious common folk confined to the far benches. In a circular clearing at the end of the room, lined with more guards, there were twelve stone seats surrounding it in a semicircle. Presently only eight of them were occupied, three by Demacian magistrates who tried, in vain, to hide their nervousness, and five more with calm, stone faced summoners who patiently waited for the inquiry to begin.
The large doors flung open and the voices cut off at once, with only low whispers remaining as the proud figure escorted by guards approached the circle.
“What is the meaning of this?” Fiora’s voice rang as she stood in the center.
“We’re terribly sorry, my dear….” one of the magistrates began and trailed off as the others gave him sharp looks.
One of the summoners rose from his seat. “There has been an accusation. We are here to investigate. Nothing less. Nothing more.”
“What accusation?” spat out Fiora.
“An accusation of cheating.”
There was an outraged susurrus through the crowd.
“I’m not a cheater!” yelled out the demacian woman.
“That may be so, champion. But we do not take these matters lightly.”
“If you are indeed, innocent, you have nothing to hide.” spoke another summoner.
She looked at them, one by one, with an iron stare, but remained silent.
“You were summoned here directly from the fields of justice” continued the first summoner, who wore a crimson cloak with an insignia designating him as an elder. “Do you assert upon your honor that you took nothing on the way here and you threw away nothing, that you stand before us in the same manner and condition as you stood at the end of combat?”
“I assert it.”
“Very well. May we examine your weapons?”
Carefully, Fiora handed her rapier to the summoners. The blade was passed among them and various spells of detection were cast.
“There isn’t anything unusual”, said a third summoner.
“You see?” exclaimed the nervous magistrate that had spoken first. “We are a country of honor and code, there hasn’t been an accusation of cheating in…”
“May we examine the artefacts in your pockets?” interrupted the elder summoner without paying much attention to the magistrate. Fiora handed her cloak over to a guard who pulled out a few potions, a Black Cleaver, a Mercurial Scimitar…. and a small metal cube.
Everyone’s eyes were pinned on the item. It was no larger than an apple, black and mysterious, its surface divided into columns and rows.
“What is this?” asked the nervous magistrate.
“I’ve never seen it before…” said Fiora, a shadow of fear in her voice.
“Or so you claim.” spoke the elder summoner. “And yet it was in your cloak.”
“But what does it do?”
The guard handed the cube over to the summoners, who passed it among themselves.
“It is a puzzle cube”, spoke the fifth member, a tall and skinny man with Ionian features. “If you turn and twist the sides in the right ways, it will unlock. May I?” He took the device in his hands and began rotating it at incredible speed, his fingers flashing as the sides clicked and clanged into various positions. After a long moment of this there was a final clung and the cube opened, splitting in two. Within it there was a small red potion which everyone immediately recognized as an Elixir of Wrath.
Fiora’s eyes widened, understanding the implications.
“Seize her.” said the elder, as the guards stepped in from all directions in case she planned to resist. With her blade taken away, the master duelist didn’t have a fighting chance.
“There has been a mistake!” she yelled. “I’ve never seen this before! Someone has framed me!”
“We will continue our investigations, of course.” announced the elder. “And you will be given a fair trial. In the meantime…. Blake, will you collect the evidence?”
“Of course” replied the Ionian summoner, pocketing the flask.
“What will become of her?” asked the second magistrate.
“We will take her to the Institute until the time of her trial.”
“Can’t she stay here?”
The summoner raised an eyebrow.
“With all due respect, magistrate. We do not find it appropriate for a demacian champion to be held in a demacian prison. Way too many…. complications.” The suspicions were in the air but the elder did not speak them out loud. This was diplomacy, after all.
“There has been a mistake!” yelled Fiora furiously. “I’m innocent!”
“Take the girl” said Blake, an unreadable expression on his face. The summoners left the room through a backdoor as the crowd erupted in uproar.
There wasn’t a single ray of sunlight in the black stone cell. It was too far down, carved deep into the mountain below the Institute, the scant torches spread along the long corridors providing nothing but a low, diffuse gleam that barely diluted the blackness of the air. Then there was the smell - the smell of mosses and molds, of the indistinguishable slimy goo that covered the metal bars and parts of the walls and dripped down as often as it crawled up. It was a place of hopelessness, a pit in the earth topped with with the entire weight of the fortress above it, hundreds of floors, countless hallways with marching guards, unspeakable creatures held under the summoner’s control with spells and incantations, a thousand blades held by strong arms with no remorse.
Fiora held her head in her hands and wondered how she’d ended up in a place like this. She was falsely accused, that much was certain, but even so her alleged transgression was relatively minor. A strict verdict would disqualify her for a time, maybe force her House to pay reparations, overturn the outcome of the match… that was it. The only reason she was held in prison was because she was still awaiting trial. Yes, that had to be it. But did they really have to put her in a dark smelly cell like this? Was this what they did with all criminals, no matter how petty the crime? The champion shook her head in the darkness. She didn’t know. She’d never asked herself of the fate of those accused by the Institute. Her job was to send them there, not worry about their comfort. Perhaps when she got out she’d have a word about the treatment of noble ladies…
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming towards her cell. They were irregular, a step and a limp, followed by a short dragging, then the next step. Fiora couldn’t suppress a shiver. That man was coming again.
In the darkness it was difficult to tell the guards apart under their cloaks, but by now she was able to identify most of the regular ones by their footsteps. They brought her food three times a day, occasionally with other useful items that were permitted. She could deal with the cold indifference of the rest of them, but that man was particularly unpleasant. The woman in the cell addressed a silent prayer that his visit would be brief.
“How is our champion today…? Heh heh…”
There was a nasty sound of slurping while he spoke, as if the air moved around his mouth in unnatural ways. Fiora remained silent. He would give her food and leave. No point in letting herself be taunted.
“Must be really cold down here…. slurp… a shame the food is cold…. heh..he-slurp..”
Oh, just get it over with!, she thought impatiently.
“You want this, heh...?” the guard shook the food plate, sending bits of something flying to the nearby wall. “You have to be nice…. yes, nice, a noble lady says please and thank you…”
She winced at that, the implied insult getting under her skin. It was one thing to treat her poorly, another to question her manners…
“But I am nice too… slurp….very nice, I give you food… slurp...even if it is cold food.”
The guard extended half the plate between the bars, allowing Fiora to reach for it.
“Thank you.” she said dryly, feeling she would betray her family’s honor if she stooped to the guard’s level. She’d show him how a true Demacian noble house behaves! Dignity is dignity, even behind bars. The guard still held on to his end, not allowing the exchange to end just yet.
“Heh, you can be nice after all… slurp… if you were nicer still I might even bring you warm food… slurp… yes very warm indeed…”
“Warm food would be good, thank you.” she forced the words out between her teeth.
“Noooo, you have to be, slurp, nicer…” the guard’s hand extended forward, touching hers. His skin was cold and moist, with a slimy, almost reptilian texture. It made her think of something dead and decaying. “You have to, slurp, give me a little kiss…”
“AS IF!!!” she shouted, pulling her hand away along with the platter. Another piece of her food fell to the floor, but she didn’t care. There was no way she’d let herself be touched by that guard, no, that thing, a second longer!
The man lingered in front of her cell for a moment, looking at her. She couldn’t actually see his eyes under the hood, but she felt the stare, the deep, creepy stare emanating from him like an almost tangible stench. He slurped a few more times, that unnatural sound again that made her question his throat’s anatomy, and then turned around and left without another word.
Fiora breathed a sigh of relief.
The food was cold and stale but Fiora ate it with the silent determination of someone knowing the whole ordeal would be over soon. She had already spent a week in the cell and by now the Demacian magistrates would start to get worried. She imagined their fat, sweaty faces contorted in indignation. Surely they had sent letters of complaint to the Institute, asking the matter to be resoled as swiftly as possible.
She swallowed another piece of cold potato. In the next few days there would be a trial. She wouldn’t be surprised if it was tomorrow. They were probably delaying to conduct outside investigations of the cube and search for traces of tampering in the field of justice. Would she be able to convince them that she was innocent and the whole thing was a set-up? The young champion wasn’t sure. But in a sense, it wasn’t that important. Whether they took her word and lifted the sentence or they didn’t believe her and gave her a penalty, she would be out of this damned place within days. And then she’d lead her own investigation, find the bastards that framed her and make them pay dearly. The duelist clenched her fist in the darkness.
There were footsteps again and they didn’t sound like any of the guards she had known so far. Fiora put the food tray down and rose to her feet. The halo of a burning torch was slowly approaching and soon it revealed a tall slim figure. The man halted on the other end of the bars and the woman recognized his Ionian features and the long tail in which his hair was braided. It was one of the summoners from her public accusation.
“You must think the Institute has fallen pretty low, keeping a champion in such conditions.” spoke the man softly.
“I admit I am rather puzzled by the accommodation. Even baring the the fact that I didn’t do it, I’d still expect a Demacian champion from a noble house to be treated with a bit more respect… and in better conditions.” she gestured around at the mossy walls and plain wooden bench.
A thin provocative smile appeared on the summoner’s lips. “We treat everyone equally here, hardened criminal or respectable champion. The Institute takes no side, you should know that.”
There was a pause as Fiora weighted the consequence of a smart reply and decided against it.
“Regardless, I personally believe that you’re innocent of this crime.”
“You do? Will you speak in my favor?”
“I will do what I can, but I can’t promise that the other summoners will share the same opinion. The evidence against you is compelling.”
“It was all planted! I’ve truly never seen that box before!”
“The investigations continue. Perhaps we will find something substantial to back your claim.”
Fiora moved away from the bars and began pacing the dark cell. It was a pleasant development to have at least one person on her side going into the trial.
“Do you know when they will judge me?” she turned towards the Ionian man. “Tomorrow, or the day after?”
“It will be at least a week, perhaps more.”
“A week?! You can’t keep me another week in this smelly cell!! I haven’t even had clean clothes to change into!” she screamed at him, her voice dripping with indignation.
The man didn’t flinch. “I’ll see what I can do.” He stood there a few moments more, silent and thoughtful, then walked away. With the halo of the torch disappearing, the cell fell into darkness again.
Fiora spent another five miserable days in the black dungeon, the changing shifts of the guards being the only indication of day and night. She had three more encounters with that man, the guard who always said mean things and taunted her, occasionally making her beg for her portion. It was the most humiliating experience she had ever endured and she spent long hours in the dark fantasizing about the things she’d do to him if she had her weapon.
It was on the sixth night that it happened. She was asleep, turning restlessly on the hard wooden bench, when a sense of danger and anxiety began creeping in her mind. She opened her eyes, alert, only to see a big dark figure bending down towards her.
“Now, now, don’t be afraid… slurp….”
“Stay away from me!” she shouted, pushing her body as far as possible into the cold stone wall.
“Be a good girl...slurp… or else I won’t bring you food….”
The man leaned in closer, suddenly placing a hand on her breasts. It felt soft and sticky, grossing her out even through the fabric of her tunic.
“Stay away or I swear you’ll regret it!”
She looked around, but the door of her cell was closed. The bastard had gotten in and locked it behind him! If she wanted to get rid of him, she’d have to-
“Come one, give me a little kiss... slurp…” The man pushed his body weight onto her, drawing closer and sending a gist of foul breath straight into her face. It smelt worse than imaginable, like the stench of a decaying animal left to rot in the sunlight. Fiora’s eyes watered.
“I fucking warned you!” she screamed, pushing the man away and springing to her feet. He staggered for a moment then came after her, hands extended, clawing to rip away her tunic. She stepped away, took a stance with her feet, repositioning her body and gave him a short punch in the jaw….
There was a loud and unpleasant crack!, his neck turning at an unnatural angle, and the guard fell to the ground, motionless.
Her eyes widened. It took her a few heartbeats to fully realize what had happened and a few more for panic to start setting in. She had killed a guard! At the Institute! Wild ideas ran through her mind as she desperately searched for a course of action. Could she loot the keys from his body, unlock the door and make a run for it? No, too many guards, and even if she somehow made it out she’d be chased down and brought back. Running would only make matters worse. Could she call for help, explain that it was an accident? It was unlikely they’d believe her but it would at least give her the benefit of the doubt. Could she somehow move the body far enough from her cell to deflect all responsibility? If someone saw here, it would eliminate all chances to plead innocent…
It might have been just her imagination or the stale air in her cell, but Fiora could swear there was a stench of death already coming from the body. Without thinking, she moved away as far as possible, sitting in the opposite corner. Despair gripped her mind, making it impossible to come up with a plan.
After half an hour of cold dread in the corpse’s company, she heard footsteps coming towards her cell. Her heart started racing and she felt almost like she would faint. What would she say? Fiora hadn’t decided yet. The truth seemed unconvincing and she had nothing better.
The torch illuminated the face of the Ionian man. He looked at her first, then at the corpse on the floor, lying contorted near the bench, then back at her again.
There was a silence.
“He attacked me!” she blurted out. “Please, you have to believe me! I woke up and he was leaning towards me, trying to touch me…. I warned him, I tried to push him away but he kept coming back….” her voice broke into a sob.
The summoner stood for another moment, then went to the door and unlocked it, flinging it open.
“Come with me” he said with a serious voice.
Fiora hesitated, then stood up and left the cell. It felt good to be as far away from the body as possible. The man locked the door again and headed down the hallway. The woman followed.
“Do you believe me?” she asked.
He didn’t reply.
They walked down several long, dim lit hallways without encountering any guards. Maybe it was the long time spent waiting in that cell, maybe the summoner was just a lot fitter than she expected, but despite her outstanding physical training, Fiora had to strain herself to match his brisk pace. Still in shock from the guard’s death she concentrated on keeping up with man, not bothering to keep track of how many corridors they traversed and how many corners they turned. They didn’t run into any guards along the way, which was a small miracle that the exhausted woman silently thanked the gods for. Though the summoner hadn’t clearly explained his intentions, she was pretty sure he was helping her in some less than legal way.
After a while they halted in front of a large statue of a minotaur holding an axe. Fiora used the moment to catch her breath and regain her composure. It was hard to tell the time down in the dungeon but she hadn’t slept a lot before she was awoken by the filthy guard looming on top of her. It was probably no more than an hour after midnight and the gradual decrease of adrenaline in her blood reminded her how tired she actually was. She felt truly terrible - her body aching from the week of unsatisfying rest on the hard bench, the cold sweat on her back turning sticky and dry, the dreadful despair of her current situation coalescing into a nauseous feeling in her throat.
The Ionian man lifted an amulet towards the minotaur and whispered a few words. With a silent gesture, the statue moved aside, revealing the entrance to a spiral staircase. The summoner stepped forward, beckoning her to follow. As soon as she climbed the first steps, the statue sealed the exit behind them.
It was a long ascent that didn’t leave them any breath for conversation. After the first few hundred steps Fiora stopped counting, slipping into a tired half-conscious state. She couldn’t think anymore, her mind replaying the guard’s attack on a perpetual loop. She felt his cold hands grab at her breasts, his foul breath against her cheeks. Every so often she would jerk herself conscious again, seeing the halo of the torch pull ahead and doubling her efforts not to fall behind.
After what seemed like hours they finally arrived at a flat surface and the man whispered more words, pushing away a portion of the wall in front of him. They stepped into a cozy private room, containing a bed, a fireplace, a desk with some chairs and two wooden doors on the opposite wall. There were only a few torches on the wall, but after the long time spent in the damp darkness the room seemed like the warmest and brightest place to Fiora. She collapsed on her knees in front of the fireplace, feeling the heat embrace her and the soft fur of the rug cushion her tired body.
“Here, drink this.”
She lifted her eyes to see the tall man handing her a glass with a light brown liquid. It was warm and sweet and as soon as she gulped it down she felt a calm spreading through her body and soothing her various aches.
“There is a warm bath in the next room.”
He held out a hand, helping her to get up and guiding her through one of the wooden doors. Indeed inside there was a large metal tub filled with water, a small magical fire blazing underneath it. The room was small with not much else inside it apart a mirror and a small stone niche in the wall with a few runic inscriptions on it.
“I shall leave you to it, but don’t take too long. We have things to discuss quite urgently. You should put your clothes in the stone niche.” he said with kind voice, closing the door as he exited.
It all felt surreal to Fiora as she got out of her damp clothes and into the steaming tub. It wasn’t so long ago that she was in a black cell next to a rotting corpse and now she was warm and safe, or so it seemed. She carefully scrubbed the filth from her skin and allowed her body to soak for a few blissful minutes before forcing herself out again. The bath was short but it nevertheless allowed her to regain part of her strength and clarity of thought.
When she got out she was pleasantly surprised to see that her clothes were clean and warm, as if freshly washed and dried. The runes on the stone basin were glowing and she guessed some sort of spell had been placed for the summoners’ convenience. She quickly dressed and left.
The man was sitting on a wooden chair next to the fireplace, staring into the flames. It was the first time since her accusation that she got to see him in proper light, Fiora realized, and his features struck her as surprisingly comely. The summoner had a thin, elegant face with fair skin and a short beard in typical Ionian fashion. His hair was long and dark, kept behind him in a tidy braid that fell down to his waist. But it was his eyes that struck her the most, dark sunken eyes that hid cleverness and power. He addressed her a calm look, inviting her to sit and join him.
“I…. thank you for everything.” she mumbled, taking a place in front of the fireplace. “But I’m still confused. What are we doing here? What about the guard I killed?”
He stared a little while in the fire before speaking.
“You do not know me, but I know a great deal about you, Fiora of house Laurent. I have followed your rise to power, including the turmoil you had to go through to clean the stain of shame from your house.”
She was not surprised. It was expected of summoners to keep a close eye on politics and prominent figures that might get involved in the trials.
“I’m Blake by the way” the Ionian man extended a hand and she took it. He had the long, agile fingers of a man more acquainted with the quill then the sword. “As I have told you on our last meeting, I believe that an honorable lady such as yourself would never tarnish her reputation by cheating. As for the corpse in your cell, well, there are ways to make it disappear.”
“Really?!” she almost jumped in her seat. “You’ll go to such lengths to help me?”
“He was a disgusting man that tried to do a disgusting deed. No one will weep for him.”
Fiora felt a giant weight being lifted from her shoulders. She wanted to laugh, to dance, to jump with joy. In a matter of hours her life position had transformed from a miserable criminal about to be charged with murder back to a respected noble lady.
“Thank you Blake! Truly I cannot thank you enough, you have kept my House’s honor and spared me a terrible ordeal. I don’t know how I could ever repay you.”
For a fraction of a second there was a twitch on the edge of his lips, but it was too quick for the overjoyed woman to catch. It vanished as soon as it had appeared and Blake’s face returned to its normal expression - calm, compassionate, composed.
“There is in fact one thing you could do for me… but it is so odd that I am ashamed to ask it.”
“Say it! Whatever it is, I will do my best to help you!”
“You see… I grew up in a small village in the Ionian mountains. When I was little my father used to read me tales of the old days, of Kings and Queens and the kingdoms of the land all before the destruction of the Rune Wars. There are no more Kings and Queens, save for Freljord, but even as I knew that I still dreamed of growing up and one day marrying a princess. Alas I am a grown man now and I know this is a silly boy’s fantasy, there are no princesses around, not to mention that Summoners typically do not wed… but still, by foolish hope the dream has lived on in my heart.”
Fiora looked at Blake, perplexed. She had never been to Ionia and suddenly she wanted to go see the cloudy mountains.
“This is touching, Blake, but I’m not sure how I could help…”
“You are of a Noble House” - he said quietly - “one of the most noble and ancient houses of Demacia, in fact. And I know you have rejected all of your suitors to keep your position as Head of house Laurent. Rest assured, I am no madman” - he quickly continued, seeing her expression - “I’m not asking for a wedding, but just one simple, little kiss. Enough to tell the boy inside me - you did it, you kissed a princess!”
It was a very forward request but it was explained so eloquently yet plainly that somehow Fiora found herself deciding without even thinking about it. The man had done so much for her and it was, in the grand scheme of things, just a trifle to kiss him. The fire was warm, they were alone, and his face, she couldn’t help noticing, was not at all unpleasant to look at. She leaned in from her chair, looking into those dark sunken eyes, into those kind eyes that had saved her… and she kissed him.
Her heart was pounding hard in her chest, creating a trepidation she was not prepared for. He drew her in, deeper into the kiss and into him. It tasted of wine and magic, of something sweet and bitter, of a song that was once beautiful but had been since forgotten. She felt his hands wrap around her and hold her tight, the warmth in her body spreading rapidly to her stomach…
At last she pushed herself away, overcoming his embrace. Blake was still holding her in his arms and the duelist found that she was surprisingly okay with that fact. But still, on some level this was wrong…
“Blake, this is enough. Let me go now.” she tried to put iron in her voice, but it came out like a plea.
“Are you sure?” he smiled, but didn’t loosen his grip. “You enjoyed that as much as I did, I could tell.”
“Blake, now is not the time for this…” she began pulling away harder, surprised at the strength of his arms. For a man of books and spells he was in an unexpected physical shape.
“Or you could stay. The night is still young - we can enjoy ourselves for a long time before anyone notices. How long has it been since you’ve been with a man?”
She looked at him with sinking hopes as a veil of illusion fell away. His smile that had appeared kind only moments ago now had a sinister air to it, those sweet lips she had touched were now twisting in a way that reminded her of the guard…
“This. Stops. Now!” Fiora shouted, jerking away violently and rising to her feet. She instinctively searched for an exit, but all the doors were locked and there was no sign of the secret passage through which they had entered.
“Where do you think you’re going, exactly?” came his voice behind her.
“Let me out of here this instant!”
“Ahahahahahahahah! Do you truly think you’re in a position to give orders? You’re not going anywhere before we have some fun. Get that lovely tunic of yours off.”
She darted towards the table, grabbing a small fruit knife and leaped towards the summoner, landing on top of him before he had a chance to get up from his char. She was pinning him down with her body weight, her left arm twisting his head up by the hair and her right pushing the dagger against his exposed throat. A thin line of blood dripped from the edge.
“I thought you were a good man, but I was mistaken! Let me go now, or I swear-”
“You swear what?” he spat out in her face, smiling, unphased by the dagger. His undisturbed composure unnerved her. “Let me spell it out for you, my dear friend. There are only two ways this is going to end - one, you push that dagger, slash my throat and stay locked in here till they find you in the morning. Accused of cheating, murdering a guard, escaping your cell and executing a summoner from the jury. You will be jailed for life, House Laurent dishonored and stripped from its name, everything you’ve ever worked for - brought to the ground.”
“You bastard!” she yelled, pressing the knife harder, anger boiling inside her as the walls of the trapped closed around her.
“Or you could swear loyalty to me” - he continued, unwincing from the pain as the blood line dripped onto his robe. “You could drop that silly thing and spend a wonderful evening - by daybreak there will be no trace of the corpse in your cell, I will testify in your favor during the trial and you’ll walk out of this with your honor unscathed.”
“How depraved can you possibly be?” she hissed with disdain. “All of this, all your little games - for what? A night with me? Is it worth that much to you? Do you think I will not come back to hunt you down, once I’m free? And I’m supposed to just trust your word?”
“Oh, but you misunderstand me, my dear” he flashed her another smile, his hands caressing her back - “I do not aim to simply spend a night with you and be done with it. As you mentioned, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. No, this whole adventure” - he brushed a finger along her cheek - “this is just a pleasant hors d’oeuvre, a delightful en plus, so to speak. Rest assured, I intend to employ your services for something far more befitting your lethal talents.”
They stared at each other in silence. Despite her fury, Fiora couldn’t help to feel a rizing enigmatic attraction towards the Ionian man. The bastard was bold and cunning and even though she cursed herself twice for having fallen into his trap she still ached with curiosity about his true intentions. To employ her lethal talents? What in the world was he thinking?
“Ah, I see you’re beginning to grasp the situation.” He lightly pushed the edge of the blade away, allowing her hand to fall limp on the side. The closest between them was beginning to take a different turn. “This will be quite worth it in the end for you, I promise. And besides, as Head of House Laurent you were forced to reject all your suitors to keep the position of power. “ He touched her stomach, sliding his hand along her tunic as he moved up between her breasts. “I wonder how long has it been?” He undid the top button, allowing an inch of skin to be exposed. Fiora felt an uncomfortable burning. As she was sitting on top of him, legs spread on either side, his other hand wrapped around her waist, keeping her close.
“How many times have you had to restrain yourself, to refuse? How many lonely nights have you spent?” She was mesmerized by his voice as he kept undoing button after button until her tunic opened loose, revealing her flat tummy and small, perky breasts. He kissed them gently, rubbing her erect nipples. The heat in her lower body intensified along with the light headedness she had felt since drinking that potion.
“Look what they have made you into, Fiora! A cold weapon, a genderless instrument of death that has to perpetually stomp and extinguish her desires. I will wield this weapon but liberate the woman inside it too!”
Still kissing her breasts he slipped a hand inside her tight breeches, boldly caressing the moistening spot that no man had touched in years. Fiora’s face grew a deep red and she stopped pushing him away, instead happy that he couldn’t see her expression nor the way her eyes rolled when his fingers ran over her sensitive spot. The knife fell from her hand and she wrapped arms around him, nails digging into his back as he kept toying with her nipples, kissing her skin and plunging further into her wet depths.
It felt infuriatingly good, the way her body needed to be touched and the way he satisfied that need. It wasn’t long before her breaths came short, beads of sweat glistening on Fiora’s skin as the ball of fire in her tummy grew…
All of a sudden he stopped, pulling his hand away. The void that came was crushing and the girl gave out a whimper, wiggling her hips in frustration. Blake rose to his feet, effortlessly lifting her in his arms. The world span around as Fiora transition from sitting on top of him to being carried to lying down on the bed. She fell down on her stomach, her face sinking into a feather pillow. His fingers dug into her beltline, sliding down her garments and revealing her moist, aching flower.
She hated how little resistance she put up that night, her hands clutching the bed sheets instead of trying to stop him. She hated that burning need that made her at first complacent, then willing to spread her legs for him. She loathed every bit of the enjoyment she got when he slipped inside her, she despised her horny moans muffled by the pillow, but most of all, from the bottom of her heart she resented the dizzy euphoria and the betrayal of her own body clenching around him as he spilled inside her, over and over again until she eventually lost count and succumbed to exhaustion…
When she opened her eyes it was dark. The old familiar smell of slime and moisture invaded her nostrils. Slowly she rose up and sat on the hard wooden bench. Her mind was still hazy and filled with chaotic amorphous thoughts, but bit by bit the events of the night came back to her. The incident in her cell, the walk with the summoner, the reveal of his hidden agenda. Fiora clenched her fists. She was too tired and confused to deal with Blake right now, but if what he said was true, she had at least a week until her trial. A quick look around told her there was no corpse in her cell. He had held his promise. Which means he expected her to go along with the plan…
A sudden knock on the bars grabbed her attention. There was a flash of torches and several cloaked figures approached.
“Champion, prepare yourself. You are called into trial.”
“What, now?! But you said that-”
No one listened to her ramblings. The door flung open and the guards flooded the space around her, helping her get up to her feet and pushing her into the hallway. It was soon, way too soon.
She marched dumbfounded through all the long hallways and winding stairways as the rocky dungeon floors were gradually replaced with paved stony corridors and eventually marble tiles as they emerged out of ground and into the citadel itself. Real sunlight came through glass windows and Fiora’s eyes, used to the darkness, squinted painfully as the guards put away their torches. She had little time to admire the blue sky however because the procession moved on, climbing further and further until finally they stopped in front of two giant stone doors spanning several feet wide and rising to at least twelve times her own height. With some effort, a team of six guards pulled one of them open.
“You’re awaited inside, Champion.” said one of the guards dryly.
She walked uncertainly inside the courtroom, a huge edifice of marble and gold with rows of columns towering upwards to the impossibly high ceiling. Unlike her public accusation, this was a private hearing with very few present - the five judges, same as before, the scribe for the official record, and the guards. Fiora sat on the accused’s chair, the uncomfortable center of a circle around which the summoners were seated. The elder in the crimson cloak was the first to address her:
“Champion, you stand accused of cheating and tampering with the outcome of battle. How do you plead?”
There was a lump of ice in her throat but she forced herself to overcome it. She had to defend the truth.
“I’m innocent!” she said aloud with more confidence than she actually felt.
There was a wave of whispers among the summoners. Another one spoke:
“Fiora of House Laurent, we found within your possession a puzzle cube containing an Elixir of Wrath. As you are well aware such a concoction could well turn the outcome of an early battle-”
“I have never seen that Elixir before in my life. I swear it on my House’s honor!”
There was another wave of whispers.
“We have conducted extensive investigations” - a third summoner chimed in - “and there were no signs of any illegal spells for teleportation or any other method the object could have been inserted on your person outside of you willingly bringing it in with you. There were no unauthorized entities that entered the battlefield. No one, on either team, saw anything suspicious that could otherwise explain the appearance of the Elixir.”
“I did not bring in the Elixir!!” she shouted at them, a note of desperation in her voice. Why wouldn’t anyone listen?
“I’m sorry, Champion” spoke the elder summoner - “but there is simply nothing to substantiate your claims. If you had confessed to cheating we could have offered you a way to make amends, but a criminal claiming to be innocent…”
“Ahem.” came a sound from her right where Blake had sat so far silently. “Perhaps there is another explanation to the matter, if the council is willing to hear it out.”
“Speak your mind, summoner.”
Blake rose from his seat, turning towards the other four members of the jury. “Fiora is very popular in Demacia, the people love her and she often meets with the crowds. Perhaps it is possible that an eager fan gave her the cube and, thinking nothing of it, she tucked it in her robe oblivious to its contents? It is not at all uncommon for small tokens of luck to be offered to those about to face battle.”
There was a pregnant pause in the courtroom.
“Champion, is this true?”
Fiora looked at the elder, then she looked at Blake who seemed to completely ignore her, still turning towards his peers. For any observer it would seem he neither knew nor cared about her. But Fiora was aware of his true intentions. That terrible man would use her for his own purpose one way or another. But he had also gotten rid of the guard in her cell, another part of her mind spoke. And once she was free she no longer had to follow through with his plans. She just had to get out of this situation…
“I did go to meet the crowds before the trial” she finally spoke. “I don’t recall anyone giving me anything, but it might have happened in the commotion…”
“You are nevertheless guilty of negligence and taking illegal items into the Fields of Justice!” boomed the Elder’s voice. “Even if you did not mean it, a crime is still a crime! A Champion needs to be ever vigilant!”
“A lack of intent to cheat is still significant to the verdict” one of the other summoners objected. “A transgression no less, but of a different order - we must adapt our jugement!”
“We can’t let her walk free after this” the Elder rebuked “If we do, anyone will try to cheat and claim ignorance! We must disqualify her from battle!”
“A permanent disqualification is too harsh, Elder!” the first summoner argued again. “We must be fair arbiters lest our own position weakens! Demacia will be angry if the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.”
Fiora looked at Blake, but he remained silent, letting the other summoners talk it out. Their voices fell into intensive whispers again as they argued back and forth.
“Five years!” boomed the Elder’s voice again as the others quieted down. “It is our decision. My brothers are in the right - a lifetime is too long, but a punishment needs to be administered!”
Fiora’s heart sank. She had expected a penalty, but five years? Demacia’s standing would be in shambles in her absence. And her House…. Tears were beginning to gather in the proud warrior’s eyes as she didn’t manage to look at the jury.
“There is, perhaps, a better option.” came the Ionian man’s voice through the silence.
“What do you mean, Blake?” the Elder asked.
Turning the quill in his hand, the man spoke absentmindedly, as if the thoughts were just coming to him and he needed to find a way to put them in words. “We must always seek a way to please all parties while strengthening the authority of the Institute, this is the only way to ensure lasting peace in Runeterra. I have been discussing a diplomatic mission to the Shadow Isles for a long time, but it has been hard to figure out the logistics of it, and to find strong enough warriors to ensure the safety and success of the mission. Is this not a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone? The champion can join my personal escort for the expedition, cleanse her honor in battle and return sooner to her homeland’s service. Demacia would be pleased, our position improved, and even House Laurent could benefit from that.”
Fiora saw the dominoes fall into place and felt a mixture of resentment and admiration for the clever bastard. He had played his hand wonderfully.
“How long would you need for your expedition?” questioned the Elder.
“Six months should do it. If all goes smoothly she’ll be back in time for the Lunar Revel.”
“Champion, do you accept this proposal? Master Blake is being exceedingly generous today, but I won’t object for the respect I have for this man.”
The walls of the trapped closed around her. Six months compared to five years…. it wasn’t really a choice.
“I accept” she said meekly.
“The matter is settled then. Fiora of House Laurent, for the crime of inadvertently introducing bringing an illegal item into the Fields of Justice, you are disqualified for the duration of six months, during which you will be in the personal service of the summoner Blake and escort him on an expedition to the Shadow Isles. By the authority of the Institute, I pass this sentence!”
In the silence that fell there was only the scribbling of the quill as the official scribe finalized the document.
The doors opened again and the guards came in to escort her away.