Mount Targon is the mightiest peak in Runeterra, a towering mountain of sun-baked rock amid a range of summits unmatched in scale anywhere else in the world. Located far from civilization, Mount Targon is utterly remote and all but impossible to reach save by the most determined seeker.
Many legends cling to Mount Targon, ranging from tales of blazing warriors imbued with incredible powers falling from the sky to battle monsters, to fantastical tales of gods and their celestial abodes crashing down to form the mountain. Some legends even go so far as to claim the Mountain itself is a sleeping titan of antiquity.
Like any place of myth, Mount Targon is a beacon to dreamers, madmen and questors of adventure. Those who survive the arduous journey to the foot of the titanic mountain are welcomed as fellow pilgrims by the scattered, tribal communities that have set up nomadic camps around its base.
Here the weary traveller learns of the tribes, such as the Rakkor, who have endured the harsh climate and unforgiving lands around the mountain for millennia. These people are united in their belief that living in the shadow of these cyclopean structures of monumental scale is a true calling of mysterious powers. The origin and purpose of these structures – if such things ever had one – remain a mystery, for mortals can never truly know the minds of the structuresâ€™ lost creators. Many faiths find root around the mountain, but all are beholden to the Solari, a sun-worshipping faith whose tenets dominate the land. The Solari high temple sits on the eastern slope of the mountain, reachable only by crossing swaying rope bridges over abyssal canyons, climbing winding stairs weathered into the living rock and traversing whisper-thin ledges cut upon sheer cliffs carved with ancient symbols and vast effigies.
Some brave souls attempt to scale the impossible mountain, perhaps seeking wisdom or enlightenment, perhaps chasing glory or some soul-deep yearning to see its summit. The dwellers at the peakâ€™s base cheer as these brave souls begin their ascent, knowing the mountain will find the vast majority of them unworthy. And to be judged unworthy by Mount Targon is to die.
The mountainâ€™s sheer flanks and the treacherous conditions of its high slopes make it incredibly difficult to climb. Its rocks are littered with the contorted bodies of those who have made the attempt and failed. The ascent is all but impossible, a grueling test of every facet of a climberâ€™s strength, character, resolve, willpower and determination. Some climbers ascend for weeks or months, others for only a day, for the mountain is inconstant and ever-changing. And even for those hardy few who somehow survive to reach the top, the testing is not over. Some who claw their way to the summit do so only to find it utterly empty, an abandoned expanse of ruins and faded carvings beyond human understanding. For unknowable reasons, the mountain has found the climberâ€™s soul lacking.
For a handful of others, however, the summit is said to be veiled in a cascade of shimmering light, through which wonders and far-distant vistas can be glimpsed, the bewildering, tantalizing visions of a mythical domain beyond. Despite attaining their goal of reaching the summit, most fail this last test, turning away in fear from this inhuman realm. Of the rare few who press on, most never return, while others may reappear minutes, years or even centuries later.
Only one thing is certain – those who return are changed beyond all recognition.
The sky around Mount Targon shimmers with celestial bodies; the sun and moons, but also constellations, planets, fiery comets that streak the darkness, and auspicious arrangements of stars. The people living at the mountainâ€™s base believe these to be aspects of long-vanished stellar beings, creatures powerful and ancient on a scale beyond human comprehension. Some believe the power of these Aspects sometimes come down the mountain within the lambent bodies of those climbers found worthy. Such an occurrence is unimaginably rare and amazing tales of their exploits form around such individuals, who only ever appear once every few generations.
It is incredibly unusual for more than a single Aspect to walk the earth of Runeterra at any given time, so the tales of several Aspects manifesting has spread a pall of fear and uncertainty around the mountain. For what threat might be arising that requires the power of so many powerful beings to fight?
â€œBring forth one true champion, or a hundred morelike you, and then we shall have a battle that will bespoken of until the end of time.â€
The peerless warrior known as Pantheon is a nigh-unstoppable paragon of battle. He was born among the Rakkor, a warlike people living on the flanks of Mount Targon, and after climbing the mountainâ€™s treacherous peak and being deemed worthy, he was chosen to become the earthly incarnation of the celestial Aspect of War. Imbued with inhuman power, he relentlessly seeks the enemies of Targon, leaving only corpses in his wake.
Atreus was a proud young Rakkoran named after one of the four stars that formed the Warrior constellation in the night sky â€“ the constellation known to the Rakkor as the Pantheon. While not the fastest or strongest of the young warriors of Mount Targon, nor the most skilled with the bow, spear or blade, Atreus was determined, single-minded, and his endurance was legendary among his peers. Every day before dawn, while the others slept, he rose to run the treacherous paths of Mount Targon, and he was ever the last to leave the training ground at night, his arms leaden from blade-work.
A fierce rivalry developed between Atreus and another young Rakkoran, a boy called Pylas. Born into a line of renowned warriors, Pylas was skillful, strong, and popular. He seemed destined for greatness, and none his age could best him in the fighting circle. Only Atreus refused to back down, pushing himself up from the ground to fight on, bloodied and bruised, even after being knocked down again and again. While this earned Atreus the respect of his grizzled instructors, it gained him the enmity of Pylas, who took Atreusâ€™s unrelenting defiance as a lack of respect.
Atreus was shunned by his peers and suffered numerous beatings from Pylas and his followers, though he endured it all with stoic resilience. He kept his growing ostracism a secret from his family, knowing it would only cause them pain.
On an early winter patrol, a dayâ€™s march from their village, the young warriors and their trainers came upon the smoking ruin of a Rakkoran outpost. Blood stained the snow, and bodies lay strewn across the ground. A hasty retreat was ordered, but it was too lateâ€¦ the enemy was already upon them.
Clad in furs and heavy iron armor, the outsiders sprang from beneath the snow, axes flashing in the cold light. None of the young warriors had completed their training, and their superiors were all greybeards, well past their prime, yet several enemies were slain for every one of their own that fell. Nevertheless, the outsiders outnumbered them, and the Rakkor were cut down, one by one.
Pylas and Atreus fought back to back, the last of the Rakkor still standing. Both were injured and bleeding. The battle would be over in moments, yet they knew they had to warn the village. Atreus plunged his spear into a barbarianâ€™s throat, while Pylas cut down two more, creating a momentary gap in the circle of enemies. Atreus told Pylas to go, saying that he would hold their enemies off so Pylas could get away. With no time to argue â€“ Atreus was already charging the enemy â€“ Pylas ran.
Atreus fought hard, but as a heavy axe slammed into his chest, he finally fell, and slipped into unconsciousness.
Atreus awoke, not in the celestial afterlife as he had expected, but upon the mountain where he had fallen. The sun had dropped behind the surrounding peaks, and a fresh layer of snow covered him. Numb and barely lucid, he pushed himself to his feet. He picked his way between the bodies of the fallen Rakkor, but all were dead. Worse, Pylas lay some way off, a throwing axe embedded in his back. Word had not reached their village.
Half-crawling, half-stumbling to Pylasâ€™s side, Atreus found his one-time rival alive, but horribly wounded. Hefting the young warrior to his shoulders, Atreus began the long trek home. Three days later, he stumbled to the outskirts of their village, and finally allowed himself to collapse.
He awoke to find Pylas watching over him, and his wounds stitched and bound. While Atreus was relieved to find that their village had not been attacked, he was also surprised to learn that neither the Rakkor nor the Solari elders had sent out the Ra-Horak to find and kill the intruders, choosing instead to stay and defend against any possible attack.
In the months that followed, Atreus and Pylas became close friends. All earlier antagonism forgotten, they threw themselves into their training with renewed vigor and purpose. All the while, Atreusâ€™s resentment toward the Solari order grew. He felt the best way to protect the Rakkor was to actively seek out and destroy their would-be enemies, but the new leader of the Solariâ€™s warriors â€“ a former member of his own tribe, Leona â€“ preached a different form of protection, which Atreus felt was weak and passive.
As with all young Rakkorans, Atreus and Pylas had grown up hearing stories of great heroes climbing to the peak of Mount Targon and being blessed with great power. Having passed the arduous Rakkoran warrior rites together, the pair began to train in earnest toward making the ascent themselves. Atreus hoped to gain the power he would need to seek out and defeat the enemies of the Rakkor himself, since it seemed the Solari were not willing to do so.
Only the strongest attempted the climb, and fewer than one in a thousand even glimpsed the peak. Nevertheless, Atreus and Pylas joined a larger group gathered from all the Rakkoran villages scattered around the foothills of the mountain, and began the ascent. As they set off, the sun turned dark as the silver moon passed before it. Some saw this as an ill omen, but Atreus took it as a sign he was on the right path â€“ that his beliefs about the Solari were correct.
After weeks of climbing, the group was half its original size. Some had turned back, while others had been claimed by the mountain, having fallen into crevasses, been buried beneath avalanches, or frozen to death in the night. They were high above the cloud line, and the sky was filled with strange shifting lights and illusions. Still they pressed on.
The air grew steadily thinner, and the cold ever more bitter as the weeks turned to months. Several climbers stopped to catch their breath, never to move again, their flesh freezing to the mountain. Others, driven insane by the lack of air and exhaustion, threw themselves from the cliffs, falling like stones. One by one, the mountain claimed those who attempted to master it, until only Pylas and Atreus remained.
Exhausted, frozen, and their minds addled, the pair made the final ascent to the summit, only to findâ€¦ nothing.
They saw no fabled city at the peak, nor any sky-warrior heroes waiting to embrace them â€“ only ice, death, and rocks twisted into strange circular shapes. Pylas collapsed, the last of his strength finally giving out, and Atreus roared his frustration.
Knowing Pylas had not the strength to make the descent, Atreus sat with him, cradling his head in his lap as he watched the life drain from his friend.
Then the heavens opened. The air shimmered like liquid, and a gateway opened before Atreus. Golden light spilled out, warming his face, and a city beyond the veil could be glimpsed â€“ a place of inconceivable architecture and grandiose vision. A figure stood waiting for him, hand outstretched.
Tears of awe ran down Atreusâ€™s face. He would not have left his friend, but as he looked down he saw that Pylas had died in his arms, a beatific smile upon his face. Atreus stood, closed his friendâ€™s eyes, and laid him gently on the melting snow. He stepped forward to meet his guide, walking through the veil of reality to the real Targon.
Months passed. On the lower flanks of the mountain, it was assumed Atreus and Pylas had died along with everyone else who had attempted the ascent. They were mourned, but this was nothing unusual, nor was it unexpected. Only once in a generation did someone return with power from the top of the mountain.
It was at this time that another raiding party of northern barbarians mysteriously appeared on the mountain, almost a year to the day since they had butchered those Rakkorans at the outpost and Atreusâ€™s peers. They attacked a number of isolated villages, slaughtering and pillaging, before pushing on toward a Solari shrine high upon the mountain. The guards there were heavily outnumbered, yet they stood ready to die defending the relics and mystics within.
As the enemy marauders closed in, an unnatural, keening wind descended, whipping the snow around in a growing fury. The swirling clouds parted, exposing the full majesty of Mount Targon at the epicenter of the storm. Warriors on both sides struggled to maintain their footing, shielding their eyes against the ice storm as a ghostly, glowing city appeared in the heavens at the mountainâ€™s apex.
The four stars of the Pantheon constellation pulsed brightly, then turned dark overhead. Simultaneously, the burning light of a falling star appeared within the ethereal city and streaked toward the ground.
It screamed toward the temple, moving at astonishing speed, and the barbarians prayed to their heathen gods in quivering voices. The streaming light slammed down, striking the ground between the two forces with an earth-shattering impact.
This was no star, but a warrior mantled in starlight and bearing a gleaming, golden shield and spear of legend. He had landed in a warriorâ€™s crouch, one knee lowered to the ground, and as he looked up at the enemy defiling the lands of Mount Targon, the Rakkorans saw it was Atreusâ€¦ and yet not Atreus. The Aspect of the Warrior had infused him, and he was now both mortal and immortal, the incarnation of war made flesh. He was now an avatar of battle. He had become the Pantheon.
He rose from his crouch, eyes blazing with celestial light, and the enemy knew death had come for them.
The battle was over quickly; none could stand against Pantheon. The outsidersâ€™ blood ran from Pantheonâ€™s armor and weapon, leaving them pristine and gleaming with starlight. His enemies defeated, Pantheon marched into the roaring ice storm and disappeared.
Atreusâ€™s family mourned their son and held a funeral for him. While they had suspected he was dead after he had not returned from the expedition, now his demise was confirmed. The Pantheon Aspect had obliterated his personality, memories and emotions. Atreusâ€™s flesh was nothing but a shell inhabited by the supernatural Aspect of War; his mortal soul had joined those of the ancestors in the celestial afterlife.
Atreus was not the first appearance of Pantheon on Runeterra â€“ there have been others, and there will likely be more. They are not immortal, limited by the human flesh they inhabit, and can be killed, though it takes great effort to do so. Pantheonâ€™s latest appearance has been greatly debated by the elders of the Solari, for his arrival is both a blessing and a curse, as it often heralds a time of darkness yet to comeâ€¦
A lone figure awaited the armed convoy, standing silhouetted against the sun. His heavy cloak and the long plume atop his helm billowed in the hot, dry desert wind. A tall spear was held at his side.
The convoy was thirty strong. Most of its number were hired mercenaries â€“ rough, warlike men and women garbed in hauberks, leather and chain, bearing crossbows, halberds and blades. They walked the dusty path alongside heavily-laden mules, though they came to halt, crude insults and jokes dying on their lips, as they saw the warrior standing motionless before them. The dark-clad leader of the expedition frowned as he pulled his coal-black steed to a halt.
The figure atop the rocky outcrop made no move to stand aside.
â€œYou come with murder in your hearts,â€ he said.
His voice was as hard as iron, and strangely accented.
â€œI am of the Mountain. You shall go no further.â€
The mercenaries smirked and scoffed.
â€œPiss off, madman,â€ one of them shouted, â€œlest we plant your head on a spike to mark our passing.â€
â€œYou are a long way from home, friend,â€ the leader of the convoy said. â€œWe journey to the mountain ourselves. There need be no blood spilt here.â€
The lone warrior was unmoved.
â€œWe are simple pilgrims, and still have a long journey ahead of us,â€ said the leader. â€œAnd besides, there is no way back for us now. Our ships have sailed, see?â€ he said, gesturing behind him.
Behind the convoy, less than a mile distant, the sea glittered like dragon-scales in the dying light. A trio of galleys could be seen, sails unfurling as they turned north on the long journey home.
â€œWe come with no ill intent, I assure you,â€ the leader continued. â€œWe merely seek wisdom.â€
â€œYour tongue is forked, serpent,â€ said the lone warrior. â€œYou seek the blood of the Seer. Turn aside, or be slain.â€
The riderâ€™s frown deepened, and he turned away with a dismissive shrug.
â€œSo be it,â€ he said. â€œKill him.â€
In an instant, crossbows were hefted to shoulders and the air was filled with loosed bolts. The lone warrior was not punched from his feet, however; the bolts clanged as they ricocheted from his heavy, circular shield. Then he began to advance.
He appeared to be in no hurry. He strode forward with grim resolve, still silhouetted against the sun, the tip of his spear lowering toward his enemies. Another flurry of crossbow bolts. Again they were turned aside by his shield.
The first of the snarling mercenaries launched herself toward him, a jagged-bladed scimitar arcing in for his throat. She died in the blink of an eye, the warriorâ€™s spear buried in her chest. The next two died almost as quickly as the warriorâ€™s spear slashed a crimson line across one manâ€™s throat and the rim of his shield cracked anotherâ€™s skull.
â€œTake him!â€ roared the expeditionâ€™s leader, drawing an exquisite, bespoke pistol from his waistband.
A cloud passed in front of the sun, allowing the warrior to be seen more clearly. He was bedecked in armor of archaic design, though his arms and legs were bare and tautly muscled. His cloak was deep crimson, though in the twilight it seemed as if stars gleamed in the shimmering fabric. That starlight also glittered in his unrelenting gaze, shadowed within the visor slits of his helm.
The lone warrior moved like liquid, every movement smooth, efficient and deadly. He was impossibly fast, faster than any man should be. More mercenaries died, their blood staining the dry desert ground. None could land a blow upon the deadly fighter. He moved effortlessly through the battle, closing inexorably on the horseman. One by one, the mercenaries were slain. In moments, those still standing turned and fled in the face of this unstoppable foe.
The rider levelled his pistol at the lone warrior and fired. Impossibly, he swayed aside at the last moment, and the shot merely scraped across the side of his helm. The leader swore and cocked his pistol for another shotâ€¦ but he was too slow.
The warriorâ€™s shield took him square in the chest, and he was hurled from the saddle. He fell heavily and grimaced as the warriorâ€™s foot came down on his torso, pinning him to the ground.
â€œWho are you?â€ he hissed.
â€œI am your death,â€ said the lone warrior. â€œI am Pantheon.â€
The leader of the convoy turned his head to the side, seeing his pistol lying in the dust nearby. He reached for it, but it was a hopeless act of desperation.
â€œRejoice, mortal,â€ said Pantheon. â€œIt is a great honor to die beneath the Spear of Targon.â€
The broken man made to speak, but his words were cut short as Pantheonâ€™s spear drove down through his chest. Blood bubbled from the dying manâ€™s lips, and then he lay still.
Pantheon pulled his weapon clear and turned away. Twilight had given way to dusk, and countless stars lit the night sky.
A comet of burning fire streaked down toward the distant mountains, a hundred miles east.
Pantheonâ€™s eyes narrowed.
â€œIt is time, then,â€ he said to the darkness, and began the long journey back to Mount Targon.
â€œIf you would shine like a sun, first you must burn likeÂ one.â€
Imbued with the fire of the sun, Leona is a warrior templar of the Solari who defends Mount Targon with her Zenith Blade and Shield of Daybreak. Her skin shimmers with starfire while her eyes burn with the power of the celestial Aspect within her. Armored in gold and bearing a terrible burden of ancient knowledge, Leona brings enlightenment to some, death to others.
To live in the lands surrounding the towering peak of Mount Targon is to embrace a life of hardship. That many willingly do so is testament to the power of the human spirit to endure anything in search of meaning and higher purpose. As harsh as the rugged foothills of the mountainâ€™s base are, it is nothing compared to the hardships borne by those who dwell on the mountain itself.
Living high on Targon is fraught with danger. When the glittering mist wreathing the summit descends, it does not come alone. All manner of otherworldly things are left behind when it withdraws; radiant creatures that kill at random and muttering voices that whisper unspeakable secrets to drive mortals mad.
Eking a living from mountain plants and their precious herds, the Rakkor tribe dwells at the very limits of human endurance; honing their warrior skills to fight the war at the end of the world. Rakkor means Tribe of the Last Sun, and its people believe that many worlds have existed before this one, each of which has been destroyed by a great catastrophe. Its seers teach that when this sun is destroyed there will be no more, so its warriors must be ready to fight those who seek to extinguish its light.
To the Rakkor, battle is an act of devotion, an offering to keep the sunâ€™s light shining. All members of the tribe are expected to fight and kill without mercy or hesitation, and Leona was no exception. She learned to fight as soon as she could walk, mastering sword and shield with ease. She was fascinated by the mists wreathing the summit and often wondered what might lie beyond them. That fascination did not stop her from fighting the ferocious beasts, inhuman entities and pallid, eyeless strangers that came down the mountain.
She fought and killed them as she had been taught until one day when young Leona encountered a golden-skinned boy with horns and bat-like wings wandering on the mountainside. He did not speak her language, but it was clear he was lost and frightened. His skin shimmered with soft light, and though everything she had been taught since birth told her to attack, Leona could not bring herself to murder someone so obviously helpless. Instead, she led the boy to a pathway leading to the summit, watching as he walked into a ray of sunlight and vanished.
When she returned to the Rakkor, she found herself accused of failing in her duty to the sun. A boy named Atreus had seen her leading a creature of the mountain to safety instead of killing it. Atreus had told his father what Leona had done and he in turn denounced her as a heretic for going against the beliefs of her people. Leona did not dispute this, and the laws of the Rakkor allowed only one sentence for such a transgression â€“ trial by combat. Leona would face Atreus in the fighting pits beneath the noonday sun, and by its light would judgment be rendered. Leona and Atreus were evenly matched; her warrior skills were formidable, but Atreus had ever been single-minded in his pursuit of martial excellence. Leona took up her sword and shield, Atreus his long spear, and none who gathered around the pit could predict the battleâ€™s outcome.
Leona and Atreus fought beneath the blazing sun, and though both bled freely from dozens of wounds, neither could land a deathblow. As the sun dipped toward the horizon, an elder of the Solari marched into the Rakkor camp with three gold-armored warriors and called a halt to the duel. The Solari were adherents of a martial faith built around sun worship, whose unforgiving tenets dictated life around and upon Mount Targon. The elder had been led to the Rakkor by dreams and an ancient Solari prophecy that spoke of a warrior whose fire burned brighter than the sun, a daughter of Targon who would bring unity to the celestial realm. The elder believed Leona was that daughter and upon learning the nature of her transgression, his belief was only strengthened.
The tribal seers warned against interfering in the duel, but the elder was adamant; Leona must come with him and become one of the Solari, to be fully instructed in their beliefs. The Rakkor were fiercely independent, but even they paid heed to the holy decrees of the Solari. The warriors lifted Leona from the pit and bore her wounded body from the Rakkor toward her new life.
The Solari temple was a towering citadel on the eastern slopes of Mount Targon, a glittering spire of gold-veined marble and polished granite. Here, Leona learned the ways of the sacred order Â â€“ how they worshipped the sun as the source of all life and rejected all other forms of light as false. Its strictures were absolute and unyielding, but fueled by her belief in the elderâ€™s prophecy, Leona excelled in this disciplined environment, devouring her new faithâ€™s teachings as a parched man in a desert seizes upon fresh water. Leona trained every day with the warrior order of the Solari, the Ra-Horak – a Rakkor title which means Followers of the Horizon – honing her already fearsome skills with a blade into something sublime. In time, Leona rose to command the Ra-Horak, becoming known around Mount Targon as a just, devoted and, some might say, zealous servant of the Sun.
Her path changed forever when she was called to escort a young member of the Solari to the heart of the temple. The girlâ€™s hair was purest white and a shimmering rune glowed upon her forehead. Her name was Diana, a troublemaker well known to Leona from the exasperated woes of the temple elders. Diana had gone missing months before, but now returned, clad in a suit of pale armor that glinted with strange silver light. Diana claimed to bring great news, revelations that would shake the Solari to its foundations, but which she would only reveal to the temple elders.
Leona brought Diana in under armed guard, for her warrior instinct sensed something awry in the girlâ€™s demeanor. Presented to the elders, Diana spoke of the Lunari, an ancient and proscribed faith that venerated the moon, and how all the truths the Solari clung to were incomplete. She described a realm beyond the mountaintop, a place where the sun and moon were not enemies, where new truths could show them fresh ways to look at the world. Leona felt her anger build with every word Diana spoke, and when the elders rejected her words and named her a blasphemer, Leona knew it would be her blade that ended the hereticâ€™s life.
Leona saw Dianaâ€™s incredulous fury at the eldersâ€™ denial, but before she could react, the white-haired girl hurled herself forward. Blinding light exploded from Dianaâ€™s outstretched hands, and orbs of silver fire burned the elders to dust in the blink of an eye. White flames surged in a hurricane of cold lightning and blasted Leona from the chamber. When she regained consciousness, she found Diana gone and the Solari leaderless. As its remaining members struggled to come to terms with this attack on their most sacred space, Leona knew there was only one path open to her. She would hunt down and destroy the heretic Diana for the murder of the Solari elders.
Dianaâ€™s trail was easy to find. The hereticâ€™s footsteps were like shimmering mercury to Leonaâ€™s eyes, leading ever higher up the slopes of Mount Targon. Leona did not falter, climbing through a landscape that seemed strange and unfamiliar, as though she followed paths that had never existed until this moment. The sun and moon passed overhead in a blur, as if many days and nights passed with her every breath. She neither stopped to eat nor drink, letting fury sustain her beyond what should have been humanly possible.
Eventually Leona reached the top of the mountain, breathless, exhausted, starved and stripped of all thought save punishing Diana. There, sitting on a rock at the top of the mountain was the same golden-skinned boy whose life she had spared as a child. Behind him, the sky burned with blazing light, a borealis of impossible colors and the suggestion of a majestic city of gold and silver. In its fluted towers and glittering minarets, Leona saw how the Solari temple echoed its magnificence and fell to her knees in rapture.
The golden-skinned boy spoke to her in the old Rakkor tongue, telling her he had been waiting for her to follow him since that day, and that he hoped she wasnâ€™t too late. He held out his hand and offered to show her miracles and to know the minds of gods.
Leona had never turned from anything in her life. She took the boyâ€™s hand as he smiled and led her into the light. A column of searing illumination stabbed down from the heavens and engulfed Leona. She felt an awesome presence filling her limbs with terrifying power and forgotten knowledge from the earliest epochs of the world. Her armor and weapons burned to ash in the cosmic fire and were in turn reborn as ornate warplate, a shield of sunlight wrought in gold and a sword of chained dawnlight.
The warrior who came down the mountain looked the same as the one who had climbed it, but inside Leona was much changed. She still had her memories and thoughts, was still master of her own flesh, but a sliver of something vast and inhuman had chosen her to be its mortal vessel. It gifted her with incredible powers and awful knowledge that haunted her eyes and weighed heavily upon her soul; knowledge she could only ever share with one person.
Now, more than ever, Leona knew she had to find Diana.
The raiders attacked before dawn; fifty wolf-lean men in iron hauberks mantled with strange furs and bearing ash-dulled axes. Their steps were swift as they entered the settlement at the foot of the mountain. These were men who had fought as brothers for years, who lived in the heartbeat between life and death. A warrior in battered scale armor and bearing a heavy-bladed greatsword over his shoulder led them. Beneath his dragon-helm, his face was bearded and raw, burned by a lifetime of war-making under a harsher sun than this.
The previous settlements had been easily overcome; little challenge for men weaned on battle. The spoils were few and far between, but in this strange land, a man took what he could get.
This one would be no different.
Sudden light flared ahead, sunlight gleaming brightly.
Impossible. Dawn was an hour or more away.
The leader raised a callused hand as he saw a lone figure standing athwart the settlementâ€™s street. He grinned as he saw it was a woman. Finally, something worth plundering. Light enflamed her, and the grin fell from his face as he stepped closer and saw she was clad in ornate warplate. Auburn hair spilled from a golden circlet and sunlight glinted from her heavy shield and long-bladed sword.
More warriors emerged from the street, taking their place to either side of the woman, each gold-armored and bearing a long spear.
â€œThese lands are under my protection,â€ she said.
Leona lifted her sword as the twelve warriors of the Ra-Horak formed a wedge with her at their center. Six to either side, they swung their shields and hammered them down as one. Leona made a quarter turn and locked her own shield into place at the apex. Her sword slid into the thrust groove beneath the shieldâ€™s bladed halo.
She flexed her fingers on the leather-wound grip of her sword, feeling the surge-tide of power within her. A coiled fire that ached to be released. Leona held it within her, letting it ease into her flesh. Embers flecked her eyes and her heart pounded in her chest. The being she had joined with atop the mountain longed to burn these men with its cleansing fire.
Dragon-helm is the key. Kill him and the rest will falter.
Part of Leona wanted to give the power in her free reign; wanted to scorch these men to smoldering bone and ash. Their attacks had killed scores of people who called the lands around Mount Targon home. They had defiled the sacred places of the Solari, toppling sacred sun stones and polluting the mountain springs with their excretions.
Dragon-helm laughed and swung his greatsword from his shoulders as his men moved away from him. To fight with such a huge weapon and keep it in constant motion needed space. He yelled something in a guttural tongue that sounded more like animal barks than anything human, and his warriors gave an answering roar.
Leona let out a hot breath as the raiders charged, their braided beards flecked with frothed spittle as they pounded toward the Ra-Horak. Leona let the fire into her blood, feeling the ancient creature merge its essence with hers more completely, becoming one with her senses and gifting her with perceptions not of this world.
Time slowed for Leona. She saw the pulsing glow of each enemyâ€™s heart and heard the thunderous drum-beat of their blood. To her, their bodies were hazed with the red fires of battle-lust. Dragon-helm leapt forward, his sword hammering Leonaâ€™s shield like a stone titanâ€™s fist. The impact was ferocious, buckling the metal and driving her back a full yard. The Ra-Horak stepped back with her, keeping the shieldwall unbroken. Leonaâ€™s shield blazed with light and Dragon-helmâ€™s mantle of fur smoldered in its furnace heat. His eyes widened in surprise as he hauled his enormous sword back for another strike.
â€œBrace and thrust!â€ she yelled as the rest of the raiders hit their line. Golden spears thrust at the instant of impact and the first rank of attackers fell with their bellies pierced by mountain-forged steel. They were trampled underfoot as the warriors behind them pressed the attack.
The shieldwall buckled, but held. Axes smashed down, sinews swelled and throats grunted with the effort of attack. Leona thrust her sword through the neck of a raider with a scar bisecting his face from crown to jaw. He screamed and fell back, his throat filling with blood. Her shield slammed into the face of the man next to him, caving in his skull.
The Ra-Horakâ€™s line bent back as Dragon-helmâ€™s sword slammed down again, this time splintering the shield of the warrior next to her. The man dropped, cloven from neck to pelvis.
Leona didnâ€™t give Dragon-helm the chance for a third strike.
She thrust her golden sword toward him and a searing echo of its image blazed from the rune-cut blade. White-hot fire engulfed Dragon-helm, his furs and hair instantly igniting and his armor fusing to his flesh like a brand. He shrieked in hideous pain, and Leona felt the cosmic power inside her revel in the manâ€™s agony. He staggered backward, somehow still alive and screaming as her fire melted the flesh from his bones. His men faltered in their assault as he fell to his knees as a blazing pyre.
â€œInto them!â€ shouted Leona, and the Ra-Horak surged forward. Powerful arms stabbed spear blades with brutal efficiency. Thrust, twist, withdraw. Over and over again like the relentless arms of a threshing machine. The raiders turned and fled from the Ra-Horakâ€™s blood-wetted blades, horrified at their war-leaderâ€™s doom. Now they sought only to escape.
How and why these raiders had come to Targon was a mystery, for they had clearly not come to bear witness on the mountain nor make an ascent. They were warriors, not pilgrims, and left alive they would only regroup to kill again.
Leona could not allow that and thrust her sword into the earth. She reached deep inside herself, drawing on the awesome power from beyond the mountain. The sun emerged from behind its highest peaks as Leona thrust her hand to the light.
She dropped to one knee and slammed her fist on the ground.
And sunfire rained from the sky.
â€œI am the light coursing in the soul of the moon.â€
Bearing her crescent moonblade, Diana fights as a warrior of the Lunari, a faith all but quashed in the lands around Mount Targon. Clad in shimmering armor the color of winter snow at night, she is a living embodiment of the silver moonâ€™s power. Imbued with the essence of an Aspect from beyond Targonâ€™s towering summit, Diana is no longer wholly human, and struggles to divine her power and purpose in this world.
Diana was born as her mother and father sheltered from a storm on the unforgiving slopes of Mount Targon. They had travelled from a distant land, drawn by dreams of a mountain they had never seen and the promise of revelation. Exhaustion and blinding stormwinds overwhelmed them on the eastern slopes of the mountain, and there, beneath cold, pitiless moonlight, Diana came into the world as her mother breathed her last.
Hunters from the nearby Solari Temple found her the next day as the storm abated and the sun reached its zenith, wrapped in bearskin and cradled in the arms of her dead father. They brought her to the temple, where the foundling child was presented to the sun and named Diana. The girl with the sable hair was raised as one of the Solari, a faith that dominated the lands around Mount Targon. Diana became an initiate, and was raised to venerate the sun in all its aspects. She learned the legends of the sun and trained every day with the Ra-Horak, the warrior templars of the Solari.
The Solari elders taught that all life came from the sun, and that the light of the moon was false, offering no nourishment and crafting shadows in which only creatures of darkness found succor. Yet Diana found moonlight entrancing and beautiful in a way the harsh sun glaring down the mountain could never match. Every night the young girl would wake from dreams of climbing the mountain to sneak from the initiatesâ€™ dormitories to pick night-blooming flowers and watch freshwater springs turn silver in the moonlight.
As the years went by, Diana found herself ever at odds with the elders and their teachings. She couldnâ€™t help but question all she was told, always suspecting there was more that went unsaid in every teaching, as though what she was being taught was willfully incomplete. As she grew, Dianaâ€™s sense of isolation only became stronger as childhood friends distanced themselves from the mordant, questioning girl who never quite fit in. At night, watching the silver moon rise over the impossibly distant summit, she felt more and more like an outcast. The urge to climb the mountainâ€™s flanks was like an itch that could never be scratched, but everything she had been taught since birth told her the mountain would claim more than just her life should she ever try. Only the most worthy and heroic dared make such an ascent. With every passing day, Diana felt more alone and more certain that some vital aspect of her life remained unfulfilled.
Her first clue as to what that might be came when she was sweeping the temple library as punishment for arguing with one of her elders. A glint of light behind a sagging bookcase drew Dianaâ€™s eyes, and upon investigation, she discovered the partially burned pages of an ancient manuscript. Diana took the pages and read them beneath the full moon that very night, and what she read unlocked a door into her soul.
Diana learned of an all-but-extinct group known as the Lunari, whose faith saw the moon as a source of life and balance. From what Diana could glean from the fragmentary texts, the Lunari spoke of the eternal cycle â€” night and day, sun and moon â€” as essential for universal harmony. This was a revelation to the girl with the sable hair, and as she looked beyond the moonlit temple walls, she saw an elderly woman wrapped in a bearskin cloak trudging up the far path that eventually led to the mountainâ€™s summit. The womanâ€™s steps were faltering and she leaned on a carved staff of willow to remain upright. She saw Diana and called for help, saying that she had to reach the top of the mountain before morning â€” an ambition Diana knew was utterly impossible.
Dianaâ€™s desire to help the woman and climb the mountain warred with everything the Solari taught. The mountain was for the worthy, and Diana had never felt worthy of anything. Again the woman asked for her help, and this time Diana did not hesitate. She scrambled over the walls and took the womanâ€™s arm, leading her up the mountain, amazed someone so aged had even made it this far. They climbed for hours, above the clouds and into the chill air where the moon and stars glittered like diamonds. Despite her age, the woman kept climbing, urging Diana onwards when she stumbled or when the air grew thin and cold.
As the night wore on, Diana lost track of time as the stars wheeled overhead and all but the mountain faded from view. Together, Diana and the woman climbed ever upwards and each time her steps faltered, she drew strength from the pale glow of the moon. Eventually Diana fell to her knees, exhausted and weary beyond imagining, her entire body strained to the limits of exhaustion. When Diana looked up, it was to see that somehow they had reached the mountaintop, a feat that should not have been possible in a single night. The summit was wreathed in cascades of spectral illumination, veils of brilliant light, spirals of vivid color and the glimmering ghost of a vast city of silver and gold hovering in the air.
She searched for her companion, but the woman was nowhere to be seen â€”Â only the bearskin cloak mantling Dianaâ€™s shoulders suggested she had existed at all. Looking into the light, Diana saw the promise of the emptiness within her being filled, of acceptance and the chance to be part of something greater than she could ever imagine. This was what Diana had sought all her life without truly knowing it, and fresh vitality flowed through her limbs as she rose to her feet. She took a hesitant step towards the incredible vista, her resolve growing stronger with every breath.
The light surged and Diana screamed as it poured into her, a union with something vast and inhuman, impossibly ancient and powerful. The sensation was painful, but also joyous – a moment or an eternity that was both revelatory and hallucinatory. When the light faded, the sense of loss was an ache like nothing she had known before.
Diana stumbled down the mountain in a fugue state, oblivious to her surroundings, until she found herself before a cleft in the mountainside; a cave mouth that would have been invisible but for the moonlight shadows. Cold and needing shelter for the night, Diana sought refuge within the cave. Inside, the narrow cleft widened into the crumbling ruin of what might once have been a temple or vast audience chamber. Its crumbling walls were painted in faded frescoes depicting warriors of silver and gold fighting back to back against an unending host of grotesque monsters as the sky rained comets of searing light.
At the center of the chamber stood a crescent sword and a suit of armor unlike any other; a mail shirt of spun silver rings and wondrously crafted warplate of polished steel. Reflected in the gleam of the armor, Diana saw her once sable hair was now purest white, and a rune shone on her forehead with incandescent light. She recognized the symbol so exquisitely etched into the plates of the armor; the same symbol depicted in the pages of the burned manuscript she had found in the library. This was Dianaâ€™s moment of truth. She could turn away from this destiny or choose to embrace it.
Diana reached out, and as her fingers touched the cold steel of the armor, her mind exploded with images of lives she had never lived, memories she had never experienced and sensations she had never known. Scraps of ancient history raged like a blizzard in her mind; secret knowledge she but dimly grasped and innumerable futures scattered like wind-blown dust.
When the visions faded, Diana saw she was now fully clad in the silver warplate, armor that fitted her as though wrought especially for her. Her mind was still afire with newly-acquired knowledge, but much of it remained frustratingly out of reach, like a picture half in shadow, half in light. She was still Diana, but she was also something more, something eternal. Feeling vindicated with this new knowledge, Diana left the mountain cave and made her way unerringly towards the Solari Temple, knowing she had to tell the elders what she had learned.
She was met at the temple gates by Leona, the master of the Ra-Horak and the Solariâ€™s greatest warrior. Diana was brought before the temple elders, who listened with mounting horror as she told of what she had learned of the Lunari. When she had finished her tale, the elders immediately denounced her as a heretic, a blasphemer and peddler of false gods. For such a heinous crime, only one punishment could suffice; death.
Diana was appalled. How could the elders reject what was so patently true? How could they turn their back on revelations brought from the very summit of the holy mountain? Her fury built at their willful blindness, and blazing orbs of silver fire spun in the air around her. With a scream of rage-fueled frustration, Dianaâ€™s sword swept out, and where it struck, silver fire burned with killing light. Again and again, Diana lashed out and when her fury ebbed, she saw the carnage she had unleashed. The elders were dead and Leona lay on her back, her armor smoking as though fresh from the forge. Appalled at what she had done, Diana fled the site of the massacre, escaping into the wilds of Mount Targon as the Solari reeled from the savagery of her attack.
Hunted by the warriors of the Ra-Horak, Diana now seeks to piece together the fragmentary memories of the Lunari hidden within her mind. Driven by half-remembered truths and glimpses of ancient knowledge, Diana has only one truth to cling to â€” that the Lunari and the Solari need not be foes, that there is a greater destiny for her than that of a simple warrior. What her destiny might be is unknown, but Diana will find it, whatever the cost.
Night had always been Dianaâ€™s favorite time, even as a child. It had been that way since she was old enough to scramble over the walls of the Solari temple and watch the moon traverse the vault of stars. She looked up through the dense forest canopy, her violet eyes scanning for the silver moon, but seeing only its diffuse glow through the thick clouds and dark branches.
The trees were pressing in, black and moss-covered, their branches like crooked limbs reaching for the sky. She could no longer see the path, her route forward obscured by rank weeds and grasping briars. Wind-blown thorns scraped the curved plates of her armor, and Diana closed her eyes as she felt a memory stir within her.
A memory, yes, but not her own. This was something else, something drawn from the fractured recollections of the celestial essence that shared her flesh. When she opened her eyes, a shimmering image of a forest overlaid the close-packed trees before her. She saw the same trees, but from a different time, from when they were young and fruitful and the path between them was dappled with light and edged in wildflowers.
Raised in the harsh environs of Mount Targon, Diana had never seen a forest like this. She knew what she was seeing was an echo of the past, but the scents of honeysuckle and jasmine were as real as anything she had experienced.
â€œThank you,â€ she whispered, following the spectral outline of the ancient path.
It led Diana through overgrown and withered trees that ought to have been long dead. It climbed the slopes of rocky highlands, and passed through stands of twisted pine and wild fir. It crossed tumbling mountain streams and wound its way around sheer slopes before bringing her to a rocky plateau overlooking a vast lake of cold, dark water.
At the center of the plateau was a circle of towering stones, each carved with looping spirals and curving sigils. On every stone Diana saw the same rune that shimmered upon her forehead and knew she had reached her destination. Her skin tingled with a sense of febrile anticipation, a sensation she had come to associate with wild and dangerous magic. Wary now, she approached the circle, eyes scanning for threats. Diana saw nothing, but she knew something was here, something utterly hostile and yet somehow familiar.
Diana moved to the center of the circle and drew her sword. Its crescent blade glittered like diamond in the wan moonlight penetrating the clouds. She knelt with her head bowed, the bladeâ€™s tip resting on the ground, its quillons at her cheeks.
She felt them before she saw them.
A sudden drop in pressure. A raw charge to the air.
Diana surged to her feet as the spaces between the stones split apart. The air buckled and a trio of screeching beasts charged her with ferocious speed; ivory flesh, bone-white carapaces of segmented armor and steel talons.
Diana dived beneath a snapping jaw filled with teeth like polished ebony, slashing her sword in an overhead arc that clove the first monsterâ€™s skull to its heavy shoulders. The creature fell, its flesh instantly unraveling. She rolled to her feet as the others circled like pack hunters, now wary of her gleaming blade. The creature she had killed now resembled a pool of bubbling tar.
They came at her again, one from each side. Their flesh was already darkening to a bruised purple, hissing in this worldâ€™s hostile atmosphere. Diana leapt over the leftmost beast and swung her sword in a crescent arc towards its neck plates. She yelled one of the Lunariâ€™s holy words and incandescent light blazed from the blade.
The beast blew apart from the inside, gobbets of newly-wrought flesh disintegrating before the moonbladeâ€™s power. She landed and swayed aside from the last beastâ€™s attack. Not fast enough. Razored talons punched through the steel of her pauldrons and dragged her around. The beastâ€™s chest split apart, revealing a glutinous mass of sense organs and hooked teeth. It bit into the meat of her shoulder and Diana screamed as numbing cold spread from the wound. She spun her sword, holding the grip like a dagger and rammed it into the beastâ€™s body. It screeched, relinquishing its hold. Steaming black ichor poured from its ruptured body. Diana spun away, biting down on the pain racing around her body. She held her moonblade out to the side as the clouds began to thin.
The beast had tasted her blood and hissed with predatory hunger. Its armored form was now entirely gloss black and venomous purple. Bladed arms unfolded and remade themselves in a fan of hooks and talons. Unnatural flesh flowed like wax to seal the awful wound her blade had ripped.
The essence within Diana surged. It filled her thoughts with undying hatred from a distant epoch. She glimpsed ancient battles so terrible that entire worlds had been lost in the fires of their waging; a war that had almost unmade this very world and still might.
The creature charged Diana, its body rippling with the raw power of another realm of existence.
Clouds parted and a brilliant shaft of silver speared downwards. Dianaâ€™s sword drank in the radiance of distant moons and light burned along its edge. She brought it down in an executionerâ€™s arc, cleaving plated bone and woven flesh with the power of the nightâ€™s illumination.
The beast came apart in an explosive detonation of light, its body utterly unmade by her blow. Its flesh melted into the night, leaving Diana alone on the plateau, her chest heaving with exertion as the power she had joined with on the mountain withdrew to the far reaches of her flesh.
She blinked away after-images of a city that echoed with emptiness where once it had pulsed with life. Sadness filled her, though she had never known this place, but even as she mourned it, the memory faded and she was Diana again.
The creatures were gone and the stones of the circle gleamed with threads of silver radiance. Freed from the touch of the hateful place on the other side of the veil, their healing power seeped into the earth. Diana felt it spreading into the landscape, carried through rock and root to the very bones of the world.
â€œThis nightâ€™s work is done,â€ she said. â€œThe way is sealed.â€
She turned to where the moonâ€™s reflection shimmered in the waters of the lake. It beckoned to her, its irresistible pull lodged deep in her soul as it drew her ever onwards.
â€œBut there is always another nightâ€™s work,â€ said Diana.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me atÂ @NoL_ChefoÂ or e-mail me at email@example.com.