Baker's Delight: Chapter 2
Morgana coughed into a Zaunite mechanism that was supposed to capture her speech. It echoed instead, and her cough filled her ears. She lifted Hextech headphones from her head and scowled across the room.
Opposite her at the table was Summoner Lessa Carin, her blonde robes hiding any color hair. She sat cross-legged with nothing more than professional lips showing under her hood.
"You don't have to wear those," Carin murmured.
So she didn't.
Morgana's posture matched Carin's formality as a show of respect. She would have objected to being cramped into such a small and strange room with anyone else, but she had respect for this Demacian. Lessa Carin was the only female summoner she knew, after all. And she had grown weary of the influence so many necromancers and pyromancers had on her mind. Carin's robes bore the Sigil of Revival on either shoulder. And her mind did not probe where it was not welcome.
They had been sitting across from each other like this for several minutes when another voice broke their silence.
"Two minutes," was called over a brass speaker near the roof.
Summoner Carin removed her hood and met Morgana's eyes without shadows.
"I didn't get to choose the questions."
She had nothing to apologize for, so her tone was not apologetic. But Morgana heard the warning between her words, and nodded her thanks.
"I hear you had to endure Nashahago," Carin continued.
Morgana nodded. An empathetic smile was shared in a moment of silence.
"One minute," over the speaker.
"At least they didn't give you a romantic interest," Lessa consoled.
She answered Morgana's questioning look with surprise.
"Katarina and Garen. You know, those trashy periodicals Summoner Latsko keeps writing. Loco something?"
She eyed Morgana's surprise with incredulity. The fallen angel's head shook.
"I thought they were a couple now."
Morgana didn't like being lied to, but she liked Lessa's correction.
"Romance is popular, so their romance was made popular. Only it doesn't exist. They would probably kill each other if we didn't have restraining protocols on them. It's a hoax, a complete fabrication."
"Smoke and mirrors," Morgana summarized.
Lessa grinned at the dark humor.
"Exactly. But the League lives on popularity. If we don't introduce new champions every few weeks, change the rules a bit, start romances- without this, we're boring. And as soon as we lose the crowds, we lose the nations."
Carin sighed while Morgana finished, "Another Rune War."
Carin straightened from her relaxed posture, and adjusted the Hextech microphone before her. Morgana sat closer to hers, and brushed a lock of purple hair over the back of her shoulders.
"Five, four, three..."
Carin waited an extra beat before speaking in a well rehearsed tone that she would never wear in private.
"Welcome, Summoners! You asked for it, and we have provided. It isn't often that we get to hear the secret thoughts of an enigmatic Outsider Champion, especially one of another species- and I can assure you those thoughts can be terrifying coming from the Prophet Malzahar or Cho'Gath, the Terror of the Void. But tonight, we have a guest that can pique your interest without destroying your mind."
Her accent faltered on the last line, turning from artificially chipper to legitimately hopeful. In her next sentence, it became pain.
"Get ready, Summoners. It's time for Ask Morgana! First question, Morgana: We know you're a powerful sorceress from another world, but how do you keep your bra up?"
Lessa Carin's smile was as forced as her participation. It did not reach her eyes.
"Magic," Morgana hissed back.
Lessa Carin had not chosen that question. She had not chosen any of the words on her list. Morgana could guess who had. Everything Summoner Nashahago touched was marked with the stains of his greasy sweat. Morgana had watched Katarina Du Couteau storm out of his office just two weeks ago, and now she was running around Summoner's Rift dressed as a feline prostitute. Morgana shouldn't have expected better treatment. She just hadn't expected brutality.
She hadn't expected that Lessa Carin could be the mouth of such foul words for an entire hour.
She hadn't expected to have her motivations and wants ignored.
She hadn't expected blood. Humans bleed, she remembered. When the Judicator's sword swung, she had blocked it with a wing. Each feather ignited like her love. But when the tip reached him, there was no smoke or fire. There was no dispelling of immortality. His body was not crafted by gods. Blood followed the slash and boiled under the weapon's heat. She couldn't remember his face or his name. She knew it had been forbidden to love him. She knew she had loved him anyways.
The only memory they had left her of him was that blood. Everything else was surroundings around his silhouette. They had caught the lock of hair he gave her. They had erased the present he gave her. But the blood remained. The blood was personal. It was part of him. Blood was life to humans, and she had seen his end in fire. She felt it. Or maybe it was her own blood boiling.
"My favorite Summoner? It's you, of course, Lessa."
Two fake laughs echoed over the discarded headphones. The Hextech logo flickered with mirth.
"Now that we've gotten to know you a little better, I want to try and dig into those deep questions that really get our listeners. Are you ready to share your darkest secrets?"
Lessa nodded for Morgana to answer yes.
"Without Mercy," she cooed.
A Summoner named Laitwell had designed everything she wore on Summoner's Rift, including her accent and lines. The clever reference sparkled in Carin's eyes, and Morgana felt for a moment that she had an ally in the Summoner- or at least someone to share in her torment.
"Ohhh! Very eager! We like that about our champions. Alright. Now this question comes from Summoner K. K. Latsko. 'Dear Morgana, what do you think of the relationship between Garen Crownguard of Demacia and Katarina Du Couteau of Noxus? In your experience, can forbidden love bloom?'"
Summoner Carin's eyes rolled into Morgana's. But she did not find mutual disgust. Forbidden love had struck Morgana in a direction that was more personal than intended.
"Forbidden love," she thought aloud.
And forgetting that she was a character to the League- that she was to conform to speech patterns and slogans, that she was to answer, not ask- she responded with a question of her own.
"Forbidden love. Who forbids love?"
When Lessa Carin failed to stammer an answer in time, it was not her that Morgana saw. Looking into Carin's eyes, she saw the fools that had written her words.
"What self-righteous, self-appointed, self-assured, self-important excuse for a moral person would think they had that right? Love is not a thing to be forbidden-"
"Well, it is just speculation-"
"Love is not a thing to be slandered, Summoner Nashahago!"
Morgana the Fallen- Morgana the League approved Character- had given way to Morgana the Scorned.
"Only a tyrant- self appointed, with morals that cannot be called in to question, with a monopoly on the right to commit violence, with the armor of chastity and the sword of ignorance, and the blazing fires of fear in her eyes would do such a thing! Kayle was a tyrant with the resources to remove memories, with the backing to commit genocide and eugenics, and with the will to stop at nothing until the universe had been purged of everything inconvenient to her moral assumptions, and even she acknowledged her own guilt! How dare you humans forbid love?"
A human's blood had boiled, a human Morgana had loved; and then her blood had boiled; and then her tongue had boiled. And now she was sitting across from the writer of those words she had hated. Lessa Carin never got to finish her broadcast. The Hextech equipment was turned off before Morgana could fully explain exactly what she thought of the League, of Valoran, or of her Sister. She had been restrained by the emergency system, locked up within her own body, and finally delivered to the holding cells that the jester and the fire demon were so fond of.
But now she found herself sitting across from Summoner Nashahago. His fat, fidgety fingers played across the desk as if he knew an instrument and was just itching to use it again. The tune was "Look at me tinkering" by the one and only.
"Whatever are we to do with you," he mused.
She felt the slide of his mind over hers, and struggled to force him back. Nashahago seemed put out by the resistance.
"Ah," he sighed.
"You didn't help your image with that bizarre stunt. Going off on poor Lessa Carin like that was very rude. She was trying to be your friend, you know."
Morgana's scowl did not need to be sharpened. She had no thoughts left to share.
"I did as you asked, Summoner."
"No, darling- my dear, darling, Morgana. I asked you to make yourself less threatening."
He smiled as if she would accept it.
"Crowds like redemption, Morgana. Do you understand? Re-demp-tion."
Thump, thump, thump. Ugh.
"People want to see characters change. They want Good to become corrupted, and Evil to see the light. They want to see enemies become lovers, and lovers split in fury. Do you see? You are a fallen angel. You need to show our viewers- our summoners especially- that you are trying to regain your lost happiness."
Nashahago knew nothing or everything about what he was saying. Either was disgusting.
"Morgana, you need to show the good people of Valoran that you are ready to rejoin society as a peaceful person. We have already been generous enough to teach you our customs and provide you with a League Passport, good in any nation- but you threw all of that in our face on the Wardcast. You need to show us that you want to be a member of society. Try taking up an activity that's domestic, something common to women here. Warfare is more of a male profe-"
Her wingspan did not fit comfortably in most offices, but she suddenly saw fit to make the office try and fit her. The Judicator's sword had burned away her feathers and scarred her to her bones. These were not the proud wings of her race. These were bones and scars. These were ugly, and charred, and all she had left of the happiness that Nashahago spoke of.
"I am not one of your common women, Summoner."
Her wings spasmed, tearing paintings and paint from the walls. But she did not have the same power to threaten him as she had carried a few weeks prior. Nashahago only smiled and stared at the discrete mark just under her ear.
"Still on probation, sweetie. The League can't have you acting out like that in public. Now retract your wings and sit properly, please."
An arcane snap to her spine accompanied his request, and Morgana struggled through the pain to comply.
"Now, now," he chortled.
"That's much better. The League's generosity has not ended. We have decided to purchase a business for you in Noxus to help ease you into society. It's very near Katarina, in fact. I hear the two of you have made fast friends. She will be watching over you as a guardian to help with any questions of etiquette while you integrate into healthy relationships. Do enjoy yourself."
Nashahago smiled, no longer forcing it all the way to his dimples. He didn't need to make a shallow attempt at persuasion now that she was on a leash.
She had no choice left in the matter. Morgana saw her options dwindling before her eyes as the league discarded her deals in favor of Kayle's. A line of new champions would enter, one every two weeks, and the league would forget the old as they trumped and hyped and empowered the newcomers. She had been used up, and now she was being thrown out with the trash.
"What kind of business?"
Her question carried more trepidation now than pride.
Nashahago smiled. He must have chosen the business. In that smile, she saw he would be her first customer. He would expect her to serve him, and well. He was using his power to gain more. But the fat bastard wouldn't answer.
"What kind of business?" she repeated.
Nashahago waved goodbye with those fat, pudgy, greasy, sausage-fingers. He wouldn't answer. The bastard wouldn't say a thing. She saw the blood spraying behind the arc of a sword. She saw it boiling. Her wings flared to block it.
"Answer me, damnit! What kind-"
An arcane snap rocked her spine. Her limbs failed. Her eyes fell closed.
And in the briefest moment, a sealed memory was released.
The present was a book of recipes.