Date: January 28th, 21 CLE
Karma emerges into sight on the wings of prestige. From the topmost tip of her mantle to the lowest hem of her gown, she is the perfect picture of Ionian class. She pauses, poised at the threshold, admiring the delicate ornamentation that League artisans crafted into the Great Hall. Karma has seen the Great Hall on numerous occasions, but her eyes manage to well with appreciation in every instance. As she crosses the hall, grace drips from every movement, and she wades in an air of distinction.
At the marble doors, she touches the frame delicately. They part gently for her, as if they were trying to match the elegance of her motion. She vanishes through the archway, and the room left behind feels emptier than it had before she entered.
The meticulous artistry of the Institute always reminded Karma, by curious contrast, of the chaos of open war. Every inset groove was, to her, the face of a lost friend. She imagined what her fallen comrades might have thought of this comparison when a horribly familiar, acrid stench stung her nose. She turned in time for a brilliant green explosion to fill her view. She swept her steel fans against the blast, piercing a hole in its expanding wave. Her reaction, though immediate, only diminished the force. She focused her senses inward as air whipped past. Her form was steel while her hair and clothes swirled in the chaos. When the blast subsided, her once-immaculate locks hung in limp disarray and her dress was torn and caked with soil.
There was something unusual about the soil – a pungent smell. Blood. She looked up, bracing for the worst. Nonetheless, she was unprepared for what she saw. No, no...not again. In front of her, as far as she could see, lay the strewn bodies of Ionian villagers. Another green explosion in the distance sent cadavers arcing through the air. The taste of salt stung her lips. She didn’t even notice the tears tracing down her cheeks. She saw a shoe, much too small for any adult, raised from the ground ahead of her. A small leg extended beneath it, disappearing into the soil.
Karma snapped upright, raking the air around her with both fans. Tears and soil matted with blood flew away from her. When all settled she was transformed, emotions absent, eyes dark but calm. She was powerful, noble, the picture of dignity against a backdrop of unimaginable horror.
She strode with purpose towards a cackling figure in the distance. Its silhouette was one she could not forget: Zaun’s insane chemist, Warwick. He stood behind a glowing control panel atop an armored, beetle-shaped vehicle. He gesticulated with zeal as each explosion bit the Ionian landscape. He was human, although the lacking lycanthropy did not register with Karma. She was beyond thought, beyond emotion; ready to do what she must to stop what was happening in front of her.
Zaunite shock troops assembled before her, blocking her path. A wave of her fan and they were gone, their cries muted by the roaring gust. Warwick noticed her with glee. His fingers danced across the controls and a cannon extended from the transport beneath him. It fired a sickly green stream of liquid into the air above her, where it burst like a liquid firecracker. She thrust one fan into the air above her head, blowing back a portion of the falling ooze, though far less than she’d expected. Drops rained down around her. Where the drops touched her skin, they sizzled and burned through it. Karma cried out in agony.
“Delicious isn’t it, Duchess?” Warwick exclaimed. “I call it an Aerial Corrosive Mine. The acid is several times heavier than mercury, so your wind techniques won’t protect you.”
Karma crumpled to the ground, the acid boring into her flesh. She pushed herself up to a cross-legged meditative pose, blinked back the searing pain, and uttered a healing mantra. The pain lessened, although it still consumed her.
“It’s not meant to be fired into the air that way. I just wanted you to savor the taste. I’m afraid when I fire it directly at you, your delicate ‘weapons’ will be useless.”
A tinny voice chirped something indiscernible from the control panel. Warwick listened for a moment, and then nodded his head. “I would truly love to play with you some more, Duchess, but there are more Ionians in need of my services.” Warwick fiddled with the controls and the cannon lowered, aimed squarely at her. “This ends now.”
Karma blinked. Her mind was sluggish, flooded with frantic damage reports from nerves all over her body. A single thought floated to the surface of her awareness.
Just as she consigned herself to join those scattered around her, a blinding ray of light descended from the heavens, landing squarely on Warwick. He screamed as his skin melted away. His body contorted, muscles bursting outward. His head and limbs stretched, yanking joints apart and forming new ones. Long claws cut through the tips of his fingers and toes. He wrenched forward, then back, and when the spasms ceased his spine was long and hunched. His high-pitched wail suddenly turned to gravel, and blue hair stabbed out from every pore of his body. He fell to the ground in a heap. The light subsided.
Not far from him, a new form lay in the mud. Karma fought her way to her feet, acid still eating into her, and stumbled to the form. There in front of her laid Soraka, the spiritual icon of her people. The Starchild had lost the celestial radiance which characterized her transcendence. She lay staring upward, her expression vacant.
Reason overpowered remorse, and suddenly Karma knew she was seeing an illusion.
Soraka’s gaze turned to Karma, her eyes piercing her soul for answers. “Why do you want to join the League, Karma?” The voice was sad, resigned.
“Is this vision not enough?” Karma gestured all around them. The pain was suddenly gone. “This isn’t really over. These things never really end. All we can do is remain vigilant and try to protect those we love.”
“Always one for a speech.” Soraka smirked. “How does it feel, exposing your mind?”
“There is nothing on my mind that I wouldn’t happily share with you. How does it feel, knowing what we suffered, what you chose to ignore?”
Karma was suddenly alone in the antechamber of the Institute, the doors ahead opened to the League. She appraised her clothes, which were as pristine and spotless as when she entered. With an imperceptible shift, Karma summoned her composure and marched onward.