And here it is, the start of Chapter 2 of The Exiled: "Negotiations."
Chapter 2 - “Negotiations” [Part 1]
“What a lovely surprise!” Lux’s voice was cheerful as she peered through the steam to spy Riven, who, for some reason, had slipped further down into the water, just her amber eyes and silvered locks poking out from the heated pool. There were many people, for varying reasons, that Riven had been hoping to avoid. The young woman in front of her was one of them. She wasn’t quite sure why, but something about the girl simply made her uneasy and uncomfortable, and not just her strange battlefield conduct either. “I’m not used to having company in this pool. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, don’t you think?” Riven didn’t reply and simply exhaled under water, bubbles popping around her mouth. “Oh! As long as you’re here, I wanted to apologize for blasting you like I did. If it was up to me I would have just let you battle it out with Shy, but orders are orders. You know how it goes.” Lux giggled and eased back into the water, staring up at the roof of the bathing area. It was effectively a cavern illuminated by magical light and shining violet and blue crystals. She sighed and continued to speak.
“Of course, you’re probably wondering to yourself why I’m here, instead of Demacia, right?” Riven didn’t answer, but Lux replied anyway. “Well, you see, the League has all sorts of fascinating magical tomes and things, and in order to learn to be a better mage, I’ve been spending lots of time reading them and practicing new arts.” She smiled. “After a long session of experimentation, it’s always nice to come to the baths and relax. They say a good rest between sessions, and taking your time, helps you to remember the experience more clearly as opposed to simply cramming it in all in at once.” Lux paused for a moment, her hand moving to her mouth with a chuckle and a slight blush. “Oh my, that sounded terribly uncouth. Sometimes I just talk so fast it just sort of comes out without me thinking.” Riven’s face flushed as well. If she didn’t feel awkward before, she certainly did now. A moment of silence passed between the two women before Lux spoke again. “Say, Riven, do you think I’m pretty?” Riven’s eyes opened wide and her face flushed more from embarrassment.
“I mean, I think I’m reasonably attractive… Lots of Demacian men find me attractive, at least I think they do.” Lux sat up, glancing to the ceiling and tilting her head to the side, a finger resting on her chin. “I’ve even tried to approach a few of them, but they’ve always backed away from the offer, like they were nervous.” She glanced to Riven, who was still mostly submerged and quite uncomfortable. “You don’t think it’s because I’m really terrible looking, do you?” Riven was quiet, completely unable to respond. What did she say? These sorts of situations were just too difficult for her to handle. The constant danger of combat she could deal with quite easily, but this simple social situation, Riven was completely helpless. However, the way Lux was looking at her, Riven knew the young woman required a response this time.
“I… I don’t think…” Riven struggled, grasping for words that simply wouldn’t come. “I mean… ” Lux’s blue eyes continued to stare intently at Riven’s. “Your eyes…” Lux raised an eyebrow and looked at Riven out of the corner of her eye.
“What about my eyes?”
“They’re very…” Riven glanced about, still struggling.
“Blue.” Riven cringed as Lux started laughing. She didn’t understand what was so funny. Not only that, but she felt a little bit insulted. “W-what’s so funny?”
“You, silly!” Lux wiped an eye and giggled once again. “You looked absolutely terrified.” She smiled warmly. “It’s no wonder you came to the baths. You’re wound up so tight you have no idea how to unwind. Most people I ask just come out and tell me, like Leona. She said I looked quite radiant, but you just froze up. That could only mean one thing!” Lux grinned, and Riven raised an eyebrow, still blushing from embarrassment.
“And what would that be?” As soon as Riven asked, she had a very strong feeling that she shouldn’t have done so.
“It’s obvious.” Lux winked and struck a small pose, flashing a victory sign and sticking her tongue out. “Clearly, you have a thing for blonde girls.”
“W-what?” Riven stuttered and backed away. “Y-you’ve got it all wrong!” As Riven protested, Lux simply laughed again.
“Boy, you’re uptight! You can’t even take a little joke.” Lux raised an arm and motioned for Riven to come closer. “Here, come over here and I’ll massage your back and shoulders. Hauling around all that armor and big sword can’t be easy on you.”
“N-no, really, that’s quite alright. I’m just fine over here.” Riven shook her head and put her arms up in front of her, biting her lip, her heart pounding.
“Oh come on. Consider it an apology for zapping you.” Lux moved herself up into a kneeling position under the water and moved closer to Riven, only to have Riven back against the wall and curl up, her eyes closed.
“Just stop already! Please!!” Lux snapped her hand back and looked at Riven, a little taken aback and confused by the outburst. “You… You just don’t get it. You keep pushing and pushing. Just please… Please don’t…” Silence was the only thing that passed between the two women for quite some time, other than the soft sounds of the other women in the pools down the way. Finally, after a few moments of silence, Lux spoke again.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Riven.” Riven opened her eyes slowly and glanced to Lux, who now had a sad look on her face. Immediately, Riven felt a heavy feeling wash over her. What had she done? “I didn’t mean to push…you know?” Lux slumped back into the water, the light that had been in her eyes before fading to a glimmer as she stared at the water. “I just, wanted to thank you for helping me the other day on the field…” Riven continued to watch Lux out of the corner of her eye as the young woman kept talking. “I get into trouble a lot, overextending myself, getting careless, even if I’m very strong. Lots of times, my big brother is there to protect me, but sometimes, he isn’t.” She looked to Riven tentatively before returning her gaze to the steamy water. “I think the real reason no one wants to get close…is because of him. I love my big brother. I love that I can be near him and show him how strong I really am. To live up to the Crownguard name. But…” She sighed. “He’s so protective of me. I just want to show him I’m strong enough, to show him that I can look out for myself.” As she continued to speak, Lux’s voice cracked ever so slightly. “But, when my brother is known as ‘The Might of Demacia’ how can I possibly hope to show him how strong I am?” Again, silence passed between the two girls, before it was broken with a quiet voice.
“Well…you did hit me with enough strength to defeat me…” Lux looked to Riven as she spoke. “And, I stood up to your brother, and your dragon…and, well, came out looking a lot better than after you hit me.” Lux smiled a little as Riven continued. “So…if it counts for anything, I think you are a very powerful mage.”
“No…” Lux smiled more strongly with a slight chuckle. “I’m just an ordinary mage, but, thank you for the compliment, Riven.” Riven nodded.
“I’m sorry for snapping at you, it’s just… I… I don’t handle social situations very well.” Riven slowly uncurled herself and slipped back down into the water with a sigh. “I’ve never really had anyone to socialize with. It was always training, rivalries with other recruits, or a new challenge to overcome. To ask for help was a sign of weakness, and the weak were destined to fail.” Lux listened intently as Riven spoke. “So, I always pushed ahead, never questioning, never asking for anything but the next mission.” After a pause, Lux sighed, speaking softly.
“You’re very lonely, aren’t you?” Lux replied and Riven turned to face her for a moment before looking away.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It was a defensive statement, and Lux could see right through it.
“I see it in your eyes. There’s a reflection there when I look at them. Eyes tell a lot about a person, and yours tell me you’re very lonely, lonely and sad.” Riven shook her head.
“No. I’m not lonely. I’ve just got a lot of things on my mind. Every champion does, or so I’ve been told.” She sighed. “That’s why they expose our mind to us in each trial. They force us to relive our most visceral moments, to relive the defining instances that forged our personality into what it is today, and remind us where we came from.” She looked to Lux, her eyes more determined and stronger. “It is a test of our strength and worthiness to fight in the League.” Lux shook her head this time.
“Then why, even now, when I look in your eyes, do I see sadness and pain?” Riven looked away. “Passing a test of strength doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely, and that you don’t have a stain on your heart so great that it plagues you.” Lux sighed, closing her eyes. “All it means is that you’ve fought hard to escape it, and despite your best efforts, no matter how strong you’ve become, it remains a part of you, haunting you.” The way Lux spoke those last words caused Riven to look to the young woman. She spoke as if she knew exactly what she was talking about. Lux opened her eyes again and looked to Riven, continuing. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that, if you ever need a friend, Riven, or just someone to talk to, I’m willing to listen.” She smiled. “It’s the very least I could do for someone as brave as you.” Riven was speechless. A warrior of Demacia was offering to be her friend? It was unheard of.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Riven spoke softly. “I mean… What if your brother found out?” Lux chuckled.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about him. He’s told me how you and him worked together to put a stop to the match.” Riven’s eyes snapped open and she looked worried for a moment. “No, no, don’t worry. He made me, and the rest of Demacia’s finest, swear to keep it a secret, as well as the prince, who I’m told was very thankful for your assistance after he learned about it. Suffice it to say, my brother thinks fairly highly of you.” Lux shrugged, grinning. “After all, no one else has given him that much of a challenge on the field other than Du Couteau. So, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I listened to your troubles from time to time.“ Riven smiled, but then paused, and sighed.
“…Thank you, Lux…but, I can’t put you in that position.” Lux looked confused.
“What do you mean?” Riven looked downtrodden again as Lux examined her, her eyes gaining that same look they had in the mirror before.
“I won’t let anyone else suffer because of me… By standing against Noxus, I face some of the most dangerous individuals in all of Runeterra. Individuals that would sooner see me dead than have me change a single thing about their country and their flawed ideals, or stand in the way of their own goals.” She looked to Lux. “If I accepted your friendship like that, anyone who would want me dead could use you to get to me, and on top of that, drag your brother and all of Demacia into the conflict.” Riven shook her head sadly. “I will not be responsible for bringing more suffering to others… My hands are stained enough as it is…” Riven was silent a moment before she rose, steam pouring from her body and obscuring her from Lux’s view as she wrapped herself in her towel. “It’s getting late. I should rest.” She slipped out of the bath and turned briefly to Lux, her eyes soft and somber. “Thank you, Lux. You were right… It was…nice to have someone to talk to.”
Lux watched Riven go, a sad look in her eyes. Riven wasn’t the only one who was lonely. Of course, Lux knew she still had people in which she could confide. She had people she could talk to within Demacia. Her brother would always find an ear for his little sister. Xin Zhao would often be willing to share a bit of his wisdom when not assisting the king. Prince Jarvan himself seemed willing to lend her his ear as well, even if she felt the prince acted strangely around her. Even Leona, while not of Demacia, was willing to listen to her, and at times Lux felt as though the older woman understood her fairly well. Perhaps it was due to the similarities of their abilities, but regardless, despite her loneliness, Lux knew she couldn’t hold a torch to Riven. She sighed and slipped into the water, speaking to herself. “You won’t let others suffer from your actions… But, you’ll force yourself to suffer so greatly for others… Where’s the justice in that, Riven?”
Rain poured down across Noxus as eight eyes scanned the entirety of the city below. There was something about the rain that suited the city, thought Swain as he sipped a cup of tea. Beatrice fluttered and cawed, breaking his thoughts as a knock came from his door. “Enter.” Swain turned as the door opened, and a Noxian soldier stepped in, closing the door behind him. “You know, Matron, if you are going to insist on breaking military etiquette to see me, you should at least keep up appearances while the door is open.” Swain grinned and watched as the flowing green and gold robes extended in some places and shortened in others, revealing feminine curves, long supple legs, and a curvaceous bust.
“Your message said it was urgent. My apologies.” Le Blanc sauntered toward the window where Swain was standing, placing a hand on his shoulder. “So then, General, what has you so worked up, hmmm?” Her voice was syrupy sweet as her fingers played at Swain’s collar. Swain simply chuckled.
“As you are no doubt aware, Matron, the match was ruled a draw. This means that the negotiations for the mining rights will be taking place outside the fields.” Swain stirred his tea as she watched the rain fall across the city’s rooftops and streets. “This is a prime opportunity to push our favor. If we gain control over the mine, a solid chunk of resources will be delivered through us, to the High Command. The Black Rose would once again have some sway over the powers that be.” He took a sip of his tea with a grin curling across his features. “To wage war, one needs the resources to do so. With the mine under our control, all factions would be required to submit to our demands, or be left with nothing.” LeBlanc laughed in a sultry tone.
“Delicious… So, I assume you will be wanting The Black Rose to…assist in these negotiations, right?” Swain placed his teacup down on the small table next to him, still glancing out across the expanse of Noxus.
“This should be quite simple compared to taking care of Darkwill and Du Couteau. Once this matter is settled, my dear Matron, we will finally have the means to bring all of Noxus under our control. The only thing we would be missing, then, would be league backing.” He chuckled. “But, one thing at a time. As with chess, patience and strategy will choose the victor, assuming one gets their pawns in order.”
“Speaking of pawns, my dear General, what of the Sinister Blade and her sister?” LeBlanc snickered, still toying with Swain’s collar as she spoke again.
“I wouldn’t worry about them, Matron. Only the strong survive. If they wish to hunt for their father’s killer, they’ll be chasing a trail that leads nowhere. That is your specialty, isn’t it? Deception?” LeBlanc grinned. “That’s what I thought.” Swain lifted, and took another sip of, his tea. “Katarina Du Couteau has proven her usefulness. Her father was careless, and he was struck down. She’s learned from his follies and grown from them. She understands that Noxus needs a strong leader to continue to present its might to the world, and she knows that I can offer it strength like no other. Laws are in place to keep her where she is, after all.”
LeBlanc raised an eyebrow before slipping away to Swain’s side. “But what of Du Couteau’s lapdog? He is bound to her, now, and still seeks to find those who disposed of his master. If he or she ever caught wind of any of this…”
“Talon is a persistent thorn, isn’t he?” Swain sighed, raising a hand to caress the top of Beatrice’s head. “However, he poses no real threat. Not yet. As long as Du Couteau keeps him on his leash, he is honor-bound to follow her commands, and only her commands.” Beatrice cooed as Swain chuckled again. “Of course, even if they did catch wind of the situation, there are many ways to assassinate an assassin if it comes to such things.” Swain turned to LeBlanc. “War can be such an unpredictable thing, can’t it? One never knows when the other side will strike down a comrade.”
“Of course, my dear General. I can see why they call you the ‘Master Tactician.”” LeBlanc’s hand slid along the side of Swain’s cheek with a sultry smile. “Well then, I do believe I have a negotiation to stage. I’ll keep in touch, General.” As she finished, the form that slid away from Swain fizzled as if it were never there, a simple projection from the woman herself. She was ever clever, Swain thought.
“Soon, Beatrice, all the pieces will start falling into place, and once they do, we can move in for the checkmate.” Swain grinned, the grin twisting into a wide smile as he chuckled, followed by a cackling laugh. “Victory awaits. All we need is a few more pawns…” His cold eyes glanced to the Noxian newspaper, showing a picture of Riven striking down Garen Crownguard in the battle a few days earlier, a grin spreading across his features. “Just a few more pawns…”
Thanks for the kind words.
I have another surprise for you guys. After writing the section where Riven was reminiscing about her armor, I started thinking what Riven's full armor may have looked like when she was a fighter for Noxus. So, using every contextual clue on her model in game, her splash screens, and some other fanart (mostly Knockwurst), I came up with this.
I call it "Noxian Invader Riven." Which, of course, is a reference to the Noxians invading Ionia.
I hope you guys like it! It literally took me forever to get it looking "up to snuff."
And here's the link to the full-size image: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...vaderRiven.png
© 2013 Riot Games, Inc. All rights reserved. Riot Games, League of Legends and PvP.net are trademarks, services marks, or registered trademarks of Riot Games, Inc.