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Mount Targon Divine Carvings
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Short Story • 10 Minute Read

Twin Dawns

By Matthew Dunn

This world's familiar sun still hides below the horizon. Crude and unpolished earth unfurls below. Mountains contort into barriers that stretch like fingers across empty scrub lands. Palaces, or rather, what pass for palaces, fail to loom over anything but the squattest of hills. The curvature of the planet meets the stars with a serenity and grace few of the dwellers below will ever witness. They are so scattered across the globe and grasp so blindly for any sort of understanding that it's no surprise they've been conquered and don't even comprehend their predicament.

Lore

This world's familiar sun still hides below the horizon. Crude and unpolished earth unfurls below. Mountains contort into barriers that stretch like fingers across empty scrub lands. Palaces, or rather, what pass for palaces, fail to loom over anything but the squattest of hills. The curvature of the planet meets the stars with a serenity and grace few of the dwellers below will ever witness. They are so scattered across the globe and grasp so blindly for any sort of understanding that it's no surprise they've been conquered and don't even comprehend their predicament.

The fiery sheen I've gathered as I Comet of Legend streak toward my preordained destination illuminates the world beneath me. Pockets of warring, fearful, rejoicing life tucks itself into any fertile nook it can find below. Oh, how they gaze and point as I streak over their heads. I've heard the names they call me: prophet, comet, monster, god, demon... So many names, all missing the mark.

In a vast stretch of desert, I feel the twinge of familiar magic emanating from the seat of the premiere civilization amongst these savages. Lo and behold, a massive Shurima's Legacy Sun Disc is under construction. The poor enslaved laborers beat their heads and rend their clothes in my wake. Their cruel masters see me, a streaking bolt of fire, as a portent of good omen, no doubt. My passing will be etched in their uncouth pictograms upon common stone, an homage to the great comet, the blessing of the sky-god gracing their holy works and so forth. The Disc's sole purpose is to funnel the sun's majesty into the most 'renowned' of these fleshy humanoids, transforming them into exactly what this planet needs: more insufferable demigods. This effort will undoubtedly backfire. But I suppose they might last a brief while, perhaps a thousand years or so, before they fall and are supplanted by others.

The desert below fades into the night trailing behind me as I streak onward across lonely steppes, then over rolling brown hills gently flecked with greenery. The pastoral scenery belies a field spattered with blood and littered with the dead and dying. Survivors hack away at each other with rough-hewn axes and scream battle cries. One side is losing quite badly. Blue Team Stag profileicon Stag skulls rest atop pikes stuck into the soil, next to writhing warriors. The few still on their feet are encircled by soldiers riding great shaggy beasts.

Those defeated, surrounded few see me and valiance seems to surge through their veins. The wounded rise and grasp their axes and bows in a final stand that throws their foes off guard. I don't linger to see the rest of the little clash play out because I've seen this scenario unfold a thousand times: The survivors will scratch my comet likeness onto their cave walls. In a thousand years, their descendants will fly my image on banners and undoubtedly ride into a tediously similar battle. For all their efforts to capture and record history, one ponders why they do not learn from their mistakes. That is a lesson even I have had to suffer.

I leave them to perpetuate their bleak cycle.

My trajectory reveals more inhabitants. Their collective repertoire of reactions span the typical gamut: pointing, kneeling, sacrificing virgins upon stony altars. They look up and see a comet and never ask what lies beneath the blazing façade. Instead, they stamp it onto their own self-centered worldviews, muddying the splendor of my visage. The few more advanced life forms - and I use that description loosely - gaze up and jot down my coordinates in scientific almanacs instead of using me as prophecy fodder. It's mildly refreshing, but even their developing notions of intellect seems to indicate I am a regularly appearing phenomenon with a predictable orbit. Oh, the feats they could accomplish if only... Well, no use dwelling on the wasted potential of the simple-minded terrestrial born. It's not entirely their fault. Evolution does seem to have a difficult time gaining traction on this world.

But alas, the novelty of such infantile antics has worn thin. The grasping energies of my magical bondage have dragged me from one paltry world to another for centuries. Now it has led me back to this familiar and unpleasant rock. The star that floods its surface with light was one of my earliest creations, a confluence wrought of love and radiance. Ah, that cherished moment when she flared to life with colors only her creator could see. How I miss a star's crackling new energy warming my face and trickling through my fingers. Each star gives off a unique energy, precious and reflecting its creator's soul. They are cosmic snowflakes burning in defiance of the infinite dark.

Unfortunately, the memories I long to dwell upon are tainted by betrayal. Yes, this was the place where Targon lured me into servitude. But now is not the time to linger on past mistakes. Those musty Aspects want me to seal yet another breach... in their name of course.

Then, I see her. This world's imbued warrior is alone at the peak of one of the smaller summits, brandishing a Spear Shot starstone spear. She watches me through a veil of annexed flesh, a mere spark masquerading as lightning. A thick braid of auburn hair is draped over her shoulder, falling over a golden breastplate that covers pale, freckled skin. Her eyes, the only bit of her face not shielded by a battle-worn helmet, flash a jarring shade of red.

She calls herself Pantheon OriginalSquare Pantheon - the warring fury of Targon incarnate. She is not the first of this world to wear the Pantheon mantle. Nor will she be the last.

Her glittering cape flaps out behind her as she raises her muscled arm and makes a motion like she's pulling on a great chain. The tug on my crudely enchanted tether wrenches me off course, toward the mountain upon which she stands. And she's yelling at me.

She cries outs with a voice that booms inside my head, transmitted through this insufferable star-gem coronet. All sounds fade as she invades my mind.

"Dragon!" she says, as if I am a weak-winged beast of base orange flame, lucky if it can ignite a tree.

"Seal their gate!" she commands, gesturing to the bottom of a rocky crevasse with her pointy little spear. I don't need to see the violet erosion of reality swirling below. I could smell the festering miasma that poisons this world before I even arrived. I fix my eyes on Pantheon instead. She expects me to fall in line like a dog on its leash. Today will be different, for I've learned from my mistakes.

"Dragon" I purr. "Are you sure commanding me with such a low name is wise?"

Pantheon's grip on her spear loosens just enough for her to fumble the weapon for a fraction of a second. She takes a step back, away from me, as if a single stride's distance could protect her from my ire.

"Seal their gate" she says again, barking louder as if perhaps the previous command went unheard. Her volume does little to mask the quiver in her voice. She thrusts her spear toward me, as if such a tiny weapon could pierce me.

This is the first time I've ever seen an Aspect of Targon shaken. She is not used to having to tell me twice.

"I will deal with those chittering horrors in due time, dear Pantheon."

"Do as you are commanded, dragon" this Pantheon shouts, "or this world is lost."

"This world was lost the moment Targon surrendered itself to arrogance."

I feel Pantheon's seething mingle with confusion as she struggles to grab hold of my immaterial reins. She's only just now sensing what I have come to learn. Targon is distracted and does not sense its magic faintly ebbing from my bonds.

Pantheon bellows once more, and this time, I cannot resist. The crude enchantment regains sovereignty over my will. I turn my attention toward the source of the breach, nestled in the basin of the once-verdant valley, now strangled with creeping, purple miasma. I sense the Voidborn perversions of life tunneling through reality's firmament, sending tides of unseen energy coursing through the aether. They shred the veil that separates nothingness and form with their unwelcome passage.

They're drawn to me, those multi-eyed, carapaced abominations. They seek to devour me, the greatest of their threats. From the reaches of my mind, I conjure an image of the solar furnaces I kindled, before my fettering, which once ignited the hearts of stars. I lance out Voice of Light beams of pure starfire and incinerate wave after wave of those gnashing horrors, driving them backward into their oblique infinity. Smoldering husks rain from the sky. I'm a little surprised they aren't wholly disintegrated, but then again, the Voidborn don't know how things work in this universe.

A pulsing sickness lingers in the air. From the epicenter of the corruption, I feel a will... hungry and indomitable, and far from the typical mindlessness I'm accustomed to from these Voidborn aberrations. The pulsating wound on reality yawns and buckles, distorting and warping all it touches. Whatever exists on the other side is laughing.

Pantheon shouts another command at me, but I ignore her words. This anomalous fissure in the universe entrances me. This is not the first of its kind I've had to deal with, but this one feels different, and I can't help but admire the marvelously terrifying manipulation of the barriers between realms. Few beings could fathom its complexities, let alone possess the sheer magnitude of power needed to rend the fabric of existence. In my heart, I know a wound so exquisite could never be orchestrated by scuttling creatures. No. There must be more behind this intrusion. I shudder at the thought of what kind of entity is capable of inducing such a volatile rift. I don't need Pantheon's barked orders to tell me what do next; her array of requests has always been of a rather limited imagination anyway. She wants me to hurl a star at the rift, as if one can simply cauterize such moldering inter-dimensional abrasions and be done with it.

These obtuse demigods are my captors?

Fine. At least they're not too far off in their 'logic' by thinking a few searing cosmic wonders will remedy this problem. I will play the role of the obedient servant just a little while longer.

I enjoy what I do next, partly because they'll remember it, partly because it feels good to let a little of the old power loose, but mostly because I wish to remind whatever intelligence that controls this Void incursion that nobody laughs at me in my plane of existence.

The base elements in the atmosphere rally to my cause, accreting into a plasmic anomaly. The swelling stardust detonates at my unspoken command. The result is a Starsurge dwarf replica of one of my majestic glories burning in the depths of space. After all, I can't fling a full-fledged star at this fragile world.

The young star's shimmering brilliance flies from my hands. It's joined by two sisters, always by my side. They Center of the Universe careen around me in a radiant ballet, their white-hot cores devouring the gathering clouds of dust and matter I draw toward us. We become a storm of stars, the night sky incarnate, a maddening gyre of starfire. I conjure eddies of searing stardust, exhaling a heat so pure and dense it collapses the aura of this world just the tiniest bit, forever marring the planet's curvature. Coruscating strands of stellar flame pirouette from the center of the rift. Gravity melts in undulating waves of color most eyes will never be able to witness. My stars warp matter as more Celestial Expansion fuel coalesces into their cores, causing them to shine brighter, burn hotter. The whole spectacle is breathtaking, a cascading dance of blinding light and searing heat so hot that for a fleeting moment, new spectra are birthed into existence. My spine tingles just a little bit at how good it feels.

Trees splinter. Rivers evaporate. The mountain walls of the valley crumble in smoky avalanches. The tireless laborers erecting their Sun Disc, the soldiers taking the hill, the stargazers, the worshipers, the terrified, the doomsday prophets, the hopeless, the rising kings... all those who beheld the streaking comet with selfish eyes witness the ensuing supernova as an early dawn. Across this pitiful globe, my radiance turns darkest night to blinding day. What fictions will they conjure to explain this phenomenon?

Even my Targonian masters have rarely witnessed such a display of my power. Certainly, no terrestrial world has ever born scars as severe as what is left of that once-verdant valley. When I am finished, nothing remains.

Not even this incarnation of Pantheon. I can't say I'll miss her or her mindless barking.

In the glowing aftermath of my carnage, the smoldering once-mountains collapse into the molten rubble streams now flowing through the valley. This is the scar I have left upon this world. A surge of damning pain shoots through my body, radiating from that infernal crown. I am about to pay.

My head snaps up, and my eyes drink the bitter sight of a dying star. My hearts clasp shut. My minds reel. An overwhelming sense of despair ricochets through my very soul, emanating from a deep and immediate sorrow, like the pulsing realization you've lost something precious and know it's all your fault.

Some curious life forms I met long ago once asked how it was possible for me to remember every star I've created. If only they could feel what it was like to create a single star, they would understand the sheer irrelevance of that question. That's how I know when even one of my darlings winks out from existence, ejecting jets of energy and, with it, the very substance of my own spirit. I see her death knell in the heavens above. She shines brightly one last time in a pyroclasm that momentarily drowns her brothers and sisters. My heart shatters as the heavens are diminished in brutal retribution for turning my power on one of Targon's own.

A sun is the price of a single Pantheon. This is the cost of my unfettered wrath. This is the kind of boorish sorcery I must deal with.

Within seconds, they have regained control of my reins and call me to a new task. On no other world have I exhibited such a display of freedom, no matter how fleeting it was. What's more is that I have learned from their mistakes. A bit of me is free now, and in time, I will return to this world, tap into this mysterious well of energy and cast off the rest of my tether.

I tune into that essence of war, twisting and contorting within fleshy vessels scattered across the cosmos. It wasn't happy about losing its mortal avatar on this world. Already, a new doomed host has been chosen to transform into the next iteration of Pantheon - a soldier from the Rakkor, a tribe who cling to the base of Targon's mountain, siphoning off its power like barnacles. One day, I shall meet this new incarnation of Pantheon. Perhaps he will learn to find a new weapon and abandon that ludicrous spear. I sense Pantheon's celestial kin, scattered across the cosmos. In a single instance, all of their attention is focused on this world, where one of their earthly Aspects was vaporized by their own weapon. Their confusion is mingled with a growing desperation as they contend with each other to regain their control over me. How I wish I could see their faces.

As I launch myself from the gravity of this world, this Runeterra, I sense an emotion I have never felt from Targon before.

Fear.

References

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