- 21 September, 20 CLE
Sona glides forward on harmonious winds, her elegant robe billowing softly behind her as she enters the Great Hall. Her hair fans out on an invisible breeze, swaths of aqua dissolving into golden strands at the ends of her long ponytails. She could easily be a fair maiden of magic anywhere on Runeterra, if not for the strange instrument floating before her, appearing to simultaneously protect and guide her.
The building creaks ever so slightly, the foundations resettling themselves on the bonds of strong magic. She angles her ear towards the sound, holding still for a moment after the sound has long since faded. One can tell that the sound still resonates in her head, being analyzed for tonality, intent, and above all, danger. She doesn't even bother to glance at her surroundings; the building's own internal symphony tells her all that she needs to know about this place.
With the faintest movement, she expertly plucks a single string on her instrument and the double doors in front of her blast open. She enters without hesitation.
The darkness unfurled around her, as deep as the endless chasm of silence that afflicted her. She felt no fear so long as the etwahl was in her grasp. Her arms curled lovingly around the instrument, her fingers expertly trailing along the hammered brass and taut strings. Pressing it against her cheek, she closed her eyes and waited. It was at times like this that she could feel the instrument alive in her arms, taking slow and measured breaths as it guarded its master. She treasured these moments, when she could be alone in the world with her beloved instrument, wrapped in its protective cocoon.
Suddenly, the etwahl stiffened. She caressed the smooth curve of metal questioningly. Before she could cull an answer, a husky voice rang out.
Sona's eyes flew open at the only sound she loved more than music itself. She found herself at the doorstep of a Demacian estate, staring into the open doorway with the same wonder on her face as on the day she was brought to her new home. Lestara Buvelle stood before her, adorned in a handsome velvet robe. Dripping in jewels and her usual heavy perfume, Lestara moved forward, her round face bright with happiness.
"My darling, look at you! You are a grown woman now, and you have made much of yourself."
Lestara embraced Sona and leaned back to appraise her.
"Truly, you have made me proud. My heart sings when I look upon you. Come in and sit with me awhile."
Lestara turned to walk down the long hallway, her footsteps clicking a staccato rhythm on the tile floor. Sona's heart swelled with happiness, and she reached for her instrument's reassuring steel.
Her hands clutched nothing but air.
Sona turned, looking for the etwahl. Had she mindlessly placed it aside just now?
Suddenly, a chord rang out, piercingly askew. Sona spun around to see the etwahl drifting swiftly down the hallway. Sona called the instrument back to her, but for the first time, it paid no heed. The single note played over and over as it drew closer to Lestara's back.
It was out for blood.
Sona flew frantically into the hallway, but she was too far away to reach Lestara in time. Her only chance was to scream a warning. She strained her throat, but no sound would come forth, just as it never had in her entire life.
The etwahl's strings strummed a terrible noise that would forever be embedded in her memory. A vibration trembled through the air, and a rush of razor-thin air scythes tore through Lestara's body.
Sona reached Lestara's side in time to catch her as the body fell to the ground in a pool of blood. Tears streamed down Sona's face as she tried to scream, but no sound would come out.
The hallway dissolved into blackness, leaving Sona crumpled around Lestara's body, with the etwahl lying innocently at her side. Lestara's eyes rolled open, and she asked weakly, "Why do you want to join the League?"
Sona's mind reeled, unable to comprehend what was happening. Suddenly, she felt the tingle of arcane magic in her throat, an overwhelming sensation that brought tears to her eyes. The breath passing in and out of her body tickled inside her, trying to draw sounds out with every exhale. Sona stared incredulously at Lestara, who nodded at her and bade her to speak.
Opening her mouth, she began to speak for the first time in her life. Her breath caught in her throat, short of uttering her first sound, when a booming voice from the recesses of her dim memory resounded in her mind.
This instrument will be the key to unlocking the world. It will speak for you more truly than a voice ever could. Nothing else – not us, them, or any magic in this world will ever own you again.
Almost of its own accord, her hand flung outwards and slammed down on the etwahl next to her. Dissonance erupted, deafeningly loud, drowning out any sounds that might have spilled forth from her lips. As the tones faded away, so did the foreign tingling in her throat. The enchantment was gone, never to return.
Lestara's voice grew loud, booming into the ether. "Why do you want to join the League, Sona?"
The etwahl's strings shivered and began to play on its own, but Sona pressed down with her palm to silence the instrument. It resisted for a tense moment and fell quiet. Slowly, her fingers began to trickle across the strings. Hesitantly at first, testing her instrument's yield, she played a defiant progression in response to her question.
"How does it feel, exposing your mind?"
Her fingers danced across the strings, urging forth a melody of loneliness and isolation. It was the song of those who had lived their lives hidden in plain sight, always passed over despite trying desperately to be noticed. It began pensively, mournfully sad, and gradually grew to a crashing, raging Crescendo. The last notes echoed with a tone of quiet acceptance, but above all, catharsis.
A smile raked across Lestara's face. "Welcome to the League, Maven of the Strings."
Lestara disappeared, and the darkness fell away to reveal Sona floating in front of ornate double doors. She knew they led to the League of Legends.
Her etwahl molded reassuringly to her hands, lying in wait for its master's command. Sona moved through the doors without a second glance.
Previous Splash Art