The grass seemed to wilt as the body fell to the ground. A couple of squirrels ran through the foliage, their scurrying making quiet sounds of pitter-pattering. A bitter wind swept through the trees, as if absorbing the taste of a fresh death as it came.
Xayah stooped over the woman, a feather embedded in the leather. She plucked it out, spinning it between her fingers. “Thanks for the dance.”
With the guards taken care of, she turned her attention to the building. The stone temple before her looked more like a series of crevasses excavated out of a monolith. She could see the glow of a large, shadowy red orb through the partitions in the rock. How could something so large fit through gaps so narrow? Xayah figured the shadow magic must’ve grown since the Order of Shadows placed it in there.
This was an annoyance. How could she tear apart the orb holding the land’s wild magic if she couldn’t more than a couple of feathers in there?
The feather gleamed in her hand. Xayah pulled her hand back, throwing it into the orb. Why not try anyways?
As she figured, it sunk into the outer rim. The orb didn’t seem fazed at all. If anything, it shone a little brighter, as if taunting her. Try that again!
Scowling at the orb, Xayah snapped her fingers. The feather returned, flying back to her and weaving itself back into her wing. She stepped away, looking around the clearing and hoped stretching out her talons would give her some inspiration.
These parts of Ionia didn’t have as many trees as the Lhotlan plateaus did, but there was still plenty of canopy to cover the sky. The leaves covered the clearing in a shadowy haze, keeping it in a cool shade. Xayah loved forests like these. When the sun shone in open spaces, her feathers were prone to heating up. And she did not enjoy playing hot potato with her daggers.
Xayah threw back her hood, shaking her hair out, and looked up at the tree trunks reaching towards the sky. Usually she could see traces of magic flow through them, green wisps floating among ancient trees. But since the Order captured the wild magic and infused it with the darkness of the shadow, the land became barren of magic. Barren of livelihood.
Even so, the trees of Ionia were some of the strongest forces Xayah had known. During the war, she had witnessed acres of forest cut down to serve as battering rams for the invading Noxian army. The walls the Ionians had built to protect themselves held for a few days, but couldn’t resist forever. Countless villages burned, broken into by the very scions of nature Ionia cherished.
A thumb slid under her chin, and Xayah pressed her lips together. Maybe she could free the magic in a similar way.
Eyeballing a distance between the monolith and the edge of the trees, Xayah reached for a feather and faced one of the trees. Leaning back, she threw her arm forward in an overhand arc. The feather curved through the air, spiraling around the tree and planted itself in the ground with a bright purple sheen. Xayah turned towards the other trees around her, withdrawing more and more feathers from her wing and hurling them into similar positions. Her throws grew faster and faster, becoming a violet whirlwind of feathers flying in all sorts of directions.
When Xayah had completed her preparations, the forest floor was filled with feathers. Her plumage felt a lot lighter. She scanned the area, making sure no feather had fallen out of line.
Now came the hard part.
Xayah had made sure to keep a section of the forest clear of feathers. She walked over to it, her back to the trees. Her feathers gleamed all around her, and for a second the forest looked like a bastion of magic again.
Soon, Xayah thought. I promise.
A lone feather by itself wouldn’t dent trunks these thick. And even if Xayah managed to cut down one tree with fifty or sixty feathers, there were no guarantees that it would do the job. But a whole group, felled at the same time? She would lament the loss of the trees now, but the land would become a chorus of joy in the future.
Xayah raised her hand, letting it hang in the air for a second, before snapping her fingers.
Her feathers rose out of the ground and rushed through the air, their magic piercing through the tree trunks to return to her. Scores of purple feathers converged towards her position, and Xayah could feel the trees shake as the feathers cut through the bark. The rustling of hundreds of leaves shook the air. Birds that had made their perches on the branches sensed what was going on and took flight.
Like a blade hacking through a vine, the feathers continued to cut through the tree trunks. One of the trees began to groan, followed by a cacophony of wood splintering and crackling. As the first feathers reached Xayah, she jumped into the air, leaping high onto a tree branch behind her.
The trees crashed into each other, converging into the center of the clearing, and pine collided against fir as the trunks collapsed on top of the monolith in an avalanche of bark and branches. Dust kicked up into the air, and Xayah had to turn away, an arm raised to protect her face.
When the air had quieted, Xayah looked down from her perch. The fallen trees had broke open the monolith. No traces of the red shadow magic remained - instead, Xayah could see a white glowing light, emanating a transparent wave of magic that permeated through the surroundings. As it hit the trees still standing, Xayah noticed how their leaves shone a brighter shade of green.
The veil of shadow had been lifted, and magic rose once again with the dawn.