The Ionian countryside burned. Noxian Legions ripped through the land like a serrated knife, their gleaming armor blood-red in the sinking sun. Blazing temples lit the waning daylight, and distant cries of anguish filled the air.
Nestled in the foothills of Tevasa Mountain was a village of perhaps a hundred people - but home to no great warriors. Some families fled. Some prayed. Others held their loved ones close and wept. Fifty brave souls prepared to fight. They cleaned the dirt from their pitchforks and bound knives to broom handles.
Mounting panic shone in the eyes of every defender; they knew they had no hope. With the dust of the Noxian advance already visible in the distance, there was little to do but make peace with their gods. The sons and daughters of Ionia took deep, steadying breaths of mountain air, gazed into the starry twilight, and waited for the slaughter soon to come.
Ahri's nine tails swished: a nervous tic. Her sharpened senses warned of danger. Crouched in the shadow of a towering willow she listened, watched, and waited. She had observed the villagers for weeks: watching from afar, but never trusting herself to approach. She heard families talking over dinner, the laughs of women who might have been her sisters, and the games of children. Ahri would listen for hours on end, tearing herself away only when the longing grew too sharp.
Though she had little understanding of nations or politics, instinct alone told her something was very wrong in the world today. Curious, and fearing for the villagers, Ahri sniffed the air. She pinpointed the source of her disquiet, and dashed into the night.
Seven Noxian scouts eased through the brush, pushing ever closer to the mountain. Dark-eyed and wary, the men kept their hands on their weapons as they crept through the settling dusk.
Ahri found them in a matter of moments and followed them through the forest. She darted between the trees, suspicion mounting as she observed their movements. Of their mission Ahri could only guess, but she had fought enough battles to know killers when she saw them.
The squad’s captain scanned the undergrowth. Without breaking stride he whispered a brief order to the man at his back, who relayed it to the man at his. Ahri thought nothing of it, and continued her silent pursuit.
Suddenly, seven hands reached for seven arrows.
"Now!" roared the captain. The Noxians loosed as one, and a flurry of hawk-fletched arrows flashed towards Ahri.
She dived from the bushes as two arrows sliced through her sleeve. Ahri ripped it off and dashed into cover, yellow eyes aflame with shock and fury. She would lose no sleep in killing these men.
Ahri opened her palms to the sky, and felt the raw power of her spirit coalesce. Her nine tails fanned out in all directions as she pulled white fire from the air with a snarl. With a flick of her wrist, Ahri summoned three motes of spinning flame. She dodged another volley of arrows before leaping for the nearest tree, coiling her tails to spring from its trunk, back towards her assailants. The Noxians scattered as she landed in their midst. The man closest to her thrust a knife, but the blade cut only air. Ahri danced through her foes with blinding speed.
The fiery motes around her engulfed the three nearest men. White flames seared them, but Ahri had more than brute force in her arsenal. She vaulted from tree to tree, rising higher with every bound. She spotted the squad’s captain crouched between a tangle of tree roots, his bowstring taut. Given half a chance, Ahri knew he’d put an arrow through her eye. She crept silently to the branches above the captain’s shelter and spoke, her soft words laced with beguiling power.
"Human", she whispered. "Come to me."
The captain’s features went slack. Through no will of his own, he set down his bow and walked from cover. He looked up, eyes wide with desperation and desire.
"Now climb", said Ahri, blowing the man a kiss.
The captain, utterly in her thrall, scrambled for footholds on the tree trunk. Ahri summoned a sphere of lambent energy to her palm, its innocent appearance belying its vast power. She drew back her arm, allowed herself a vulpine grin, and hurled it downwards.
The orb streaked through the captain before flying back to Ahri palm, and his smoking body fell to the forest floor with a thud. The remaining scouts fled in terror, but running proved every bit as futile as hiding. Ahri vaulted from branch to branch, tails whirling behind her as she struck two men down with thunderous bolts of energy.
The last man collapsed in a tangle of limbs, clutching at his broken bones as Ahri landed gracefully beside him. She grabbed the Noxian’s throat, and put her face an inch from his.
"You brought this on yourselves", she hissed, and snapped the man’s neck with a blast of concussive force.
Only one task remained.
Ahri had no qualms about gaining her humanity by taking it from men who had no use for it. She knelt over the fallen Noxian, feeling his pulse fade. She placed her hands to either side of his face. The light of his essence flowed from his eyes and mouth, and a thrilling sensation surged through Ahri. His humanity poured into her, and she felt the fox within withdraw with every heartbeat. Her tails curled in pleasure, her expression rapturous.
Yet even lost in that glorious sensation, Ahri heard the sound of approaching footsteps. The villagers, hearing the sounds of combat, were coming to investigate. She couldn’t let them see her like this, draining what remained of a dying man’s life. To their eyes she would seem a terrifying mystery: a damnable half-breed stray, neither human nor beast.
Reluctantly, Ahri turned from her feast, seeing shapes moving through the trees and bushes. She recognized the men and women she had watched from afar, remembering the friendship she hoped they might one day share.
But today was not that day, and Ahri turned to flee into the woods.