Chapter 21: Boundless Requiem
Harsh world of ours, thy fates so cruel
When wars of evil spreads its wings of darkness to rule
Bound are we to accept or shape it as we see
And guide us to salvation, our will its key
Lighted souls, marred by hatred’s hand
Tormented, driving to find their journey’s end
To sacrifice and seek thy redemption of legends
And surely, but quietly rest in eternal slumber at world’s end.
-Anathema, Act IV
Edgemont Ruins, Icathia
Ezreal dropped to his knees as the adrenaline that had kept him going felt drained from him, seeping from his body as though the Mageblade had cut into the very source of his willpower. His sole reason for continuing to follow the others on their quest was to ensure that the person who changed his life would make it through. The sight of the double pronged blade impaled into her abdomen caused the world around him to spin. Nausea rose to the back of his throat as nothing made sense to him anymore, all sense of logic lost to him like an orphan. As he fell to his knees, the figure of Lux began to distort, causing him to wonder if he was beginning to lose consciousness.
What the? He suddenly thought in shock as Lux distorted in horizontal swirls before disappearing, swallowing down the heaves that were waiting to escape. Multiple clones of Lux began to appear on the battlefield, each identical to the others such that within moments, a large circle comprised of copies of the lady of luminosity surrounded Fiora as her head darted left and right like a trapped animal.
“I’m sorry, I never thought I’d see the day I would use my abilities against my best friend. But that’s not who you are…at least not right now.” Lux’s voice echoed through the air as each image of her moved their lips in unison, her voice drenched in sorrow with every word she spoke. “You can no longer tell friend from foe and I’m sorry…I don’t want to see anyone of our friends killed…and neither would you. I know you’re in there somewhere! Fight against it, the real you would never forgive yourself if this continued and one of us got hurt because of it. Come back to us!”
“She’s right,” Ashram said from behind one of Lux’s clones. “You said what you wanted more than anything else was to protect those you cared about didn’t you? So do it, protect us from whatever has a hold over your soul. Don’t let it control you.”
“You know us…and we know you.” Lux said as one of her light clones stepped forward towards the duelist, removing herself from the otherwise eerily formed circle, her hand held out harmlessly. “You trust us, so there’s no reason to-“
Lux’s words were cut short as Fiora’s blade stabbed effortlessly through the clone’s chest, causing it to distort and shift into various colors before disappearing. The possessed duelist let out a loud growl of anger as she realized she had been tricked a second time, sending out a shockwave of dark energy that knocked each of the clones of the lady of luminosity into the air. Each of the clones dissipated into the air, save for one who tumbled backwards a few time, letting out a painful groan as she collided against a pile of rubble behind her.
Launching herself forward towards the fallen blonde mage, she held her sword forward hoping to impale her opponent against the wall in a manner similar to what she had done to du Couteau. Steel clashed as Shen brought a katana up against her Highwind, parrying her blade before swinging his second sword in the opposite direction, crossing his swords to lock hers in place.
“Stop it already. Don’t let darkness consume you.” Shen said in a struggled voice as he held back the enormous strength behind her swing.
A sinister smile widened on Fiora’s face as black orbs stared into Shen’s eyes. He looked down in horror as a dark sphere appeared in front of the duelist’s scythe arm, forcing him to disengage his stance. Leaping backwards with a few back flips, he attempted to evade the attack only to watch as the dark energy blast rushed towards him head on. He began to desperately channel what was left of his energy into his blades, holding them in crossed formation in front of him to block the oncoming attack, only to stop as Ashram appeared in front of him.
“Odin’s Mirror!” He said as a swirl of purple energy surrounded his free hand, expanding to form a round disc shaped object in front of him. Streaks of energy formed in the air to surround the incoming Chaos Strike attack, drawing it towards the round disc. The dark energy began to curve inwards as it reached the disc, acting almost as a vacuum to absorb the energy of the incoming chaos spell.
As the last of the duelist’s dark energy attack faded, Ashram held out his Mageblade towards Fiora. As if on cue, the disc in front of his free hand disappeared only for a second one to appear in front of his blade. Black energy fired towards the possessed duelist from the tip of his blade, using it as a conduit to reflect the attack that she had fired back towards her. She let out a feral growl as the attack connected, a widespread explosion engulfing her in its flames.
Lux let out a gasp as she made it to her feet, watching in horror as the duelist disappeared in a burst of flames. Her heart sunk as she watched Ashram follow up this attack by dashing towards the rising smoke where Fiora had stood moments ago, the sound of steel clashing echoing through the air moments later. Two streaks of gray flew from the rising plume of smokes, revealing Ashram and Fiora staring each other down with fierce looks in their eyes. They dashed towards one another in mid-air, swinging their swords, now flowing with contrasting energies of light and darkness, a dancing of opposing forces that sent shockwaves through the atmosphere.
Why…why is this happening? Why did she end up like this…and why is Sir Ashram fighting as though he fully intends to kill her? Lux thought to herself as she continued to watch the battle taking place in the skies.
Using all of his strength, Ashram managed to push the duelist away from him, serving only to intensify the look of anger in her lost eyes of darkness. He followed this up by raising his blade over his head as he channeled an Aero Devastation spell through his blade, delivering a downward slash to launch the powerful wind spell at the falling duelist. He watched as the dense wind magic connected with her body, sending her crashing into the earth below. Landing on the ground a few feet away from her, he approached cautiously as Fiora’s figure appeared through the edge of the dust cloud, revealing her breast plate shredded and the midline of her shirt torn from her neck to just above the navel. The remains of her shirt ran along the contours of her breasts, revealing peach colored skin in between unmarred by the last attack, flawless were it not for the veins of black rivers running along her skin.
It’s as I suspected…the dark energy is so strong around her that it’s acting like an armor against attacks. He thought to himself, his jaw clenched tightly as he contemplated a way out of this dilemma, only to find to his horror that there was none.
“Sir Ashram, what are you doing, that’s Fiora! This is going too far.” Lux objected as she quickly ran towards him, her voice holding resemblance to that of a stubborn child.
“We’re out of options, I’m afraid.” Ashram replied apologetically, the expression on his face shifted from anger into one of sorrow. “She’s my responsibility. I couldn’t protect her like I was supposed to. Instead, I did the direct opposite…it’s my fault she learned magic…it’s my fault she came on this journey…it’s my fault that she ended up like this!”
Fiora let out a low growl under her breath as her eyes narrowed, crouching slightly as she kept her gaze on the former High Councilor. As she charged forward, her blade flowing with a pitch black energy that tore a crevasse into stone as she dragged it along the ground, Ashram mirrored her moves, meeting her attack with one of equal power. A loud boom rang through the ruins as Lux, Shen, and Ezreal could only watch helplessly as the two of them engaged in a battle far beyond their capabilities.
“Why?” Ashram asked in a desperate voice that contrasted his normally calm demeanor as their blades locked together in a stalemate. “Why did things end up like this? You were supposed to be on the side of light, that’s why the Goddess wanted you to be safe…so why did things turn out this way?”
Please, say something. Do something…at least give me a sign that you can understand me. Ashram pleaded to himself, wishing that his thoughts would somehow reach her as he stared intently with sorrow on his face. You saved my life, and in exchange, you lost yours. Please, tell me that you’re still in there…I don’t…I don’t want things to end this way.
Fiora responded with a low growl as she narrowed her eyes in malice, her impish grin widening to accentuate her fangs, distorting the face that was once held in such elegance and beauty. Though it was subtle enough that no one besides the former High Councilor noticed, her reaction was the final straw for him. Whatever trace of the girl he had known and swore to protect was now gone, the thing in front of him an empty shell housing an evil that had no place in this world.
“Yes…take your anger out on me…I’m sorry…I failed you.” Ashram finally said in a sad tone, lowering his eyes slightly as he could no longer bear to look into her eyes. “All that’s left now is for me to fulfill my obligation. I turned you into this. It’s my responsibility to keep you from hurting anyone else…even if that means killing you. I know you…the real you…and I know that you would want the same if it means protecting your friends from harm. Forgive me…Fiora.”
A green glow began to appear under Ashram’s right sleeve as he unsealed the energy within his Aesir crystal. He was reluctant but knew what he had to do. Neither he nor the girl in front of him would forgive him if his hesitation led to more of his companions dying. As he prepared to summon Fenrir to finish this in an instant, the pressure against his blade lightened as the duelist threw herself backwards, her body pushed away by an unseen force. She lowered her sword as she let out a tormented shriek that sent chills down the others spines. Dark hands shot towards her head in pain as she shook it rapidly, sharp claws at the tips of her finger digging at something within the depths of her mind.
“Fiora!” Ashram cried out, his summoning spell dispersing as he watched her internal struggle. It was the reverse of what had happened at the airstrip. The darkness that had taken over was now being thrown into a struggle, her own soul beginning to fight back for control. “Yes, you can do it. Take back control, you’re stronger than it is. Come back to us!”
His words served only to intensify the struggle as he felt the nature of her magic wildly alternating between one of warmth and hope, and another of icy cold malice. He stood frozen into place as he watched her body thrown around into distorted postures as though she was being attacked by an outside force. After what seemed like an eternity had passed, her body suddenly stopped moving, the struggling ceasing without warning to fill the air with an uneasy silence. Her body slouched forward, purple and black bangs falling forward to hide the features on her face.
“Fiora?” Ashram finally said in a low, nervous voice. He held his breath, his heart racing as he prayed that the light in her would emerge victorious. He lowered his blade as he began to take a few slow, apprehensive steps towards her. “Are you all right?”
As he came within a few feet of her, Fiora raised her head slightly to reveal a distorted expression of malice on her face, streaks of black oil-like tears flowing from her eyes. A gasp of horror escaped the Summoner’s mouth as the duelist let out a growl of anger, simultaneously raising her left hand to reveal a charging Chaos Strike attack.
****! I’m not going to make it! Ashram thought to himself in horror as the possessed duelist placed the tip of her hand just inches from his chest.
A crimson mist flew in front of Ashram, drops of blood landing on his overcoat in ominous streaks. He looked down to see light reflecting off of a serrated sliver of metal that protruded from the duelist’s chest, missing his own by just a few inches. Streaks of blood flowed along the side of the blade as Fiora let out a loud shriek of pain, her Chaos Strike attack dispersing harmlessly into specks of black dust that rose into the air.
Looking over her shoulder, Ashram opened his eyes wide in shock as his eyes met the figure of Talon in a kneeled position. The assassin’s face was held in an expression of pain as his armblade passed through Fiora’s chest. All of the experience he had with killing people in the past did not make this any easier for him. He could all but close his eyes, guilt overwhelming him to the point of being unable to witness the results of his actions. For him, this was the second time in his life that he had wished he could have been anyone but an assassin.
“I’m sorry, Fiora.” Talon said, his voice cracking into sadness with every passing word. “I wish there was some other way…but the moment you kill your friends in cold blood, you cross a line you can never go back on. Take it from me, I know…for me, that time had long come and past and to this day it doesn’t get any easier. My bridges have long been burned…that’s why it had to be me. It is one burden that I never want to see any of you having to bear for the rest of your life.”
“Fi…orie…” A whimper escaped Lux’s lips as she remained kneeled on the floor, a stabbing sadness piercing her heart like a dagger the moment the serrated blade met its mark.
“You saved me from my darkness.” Talon continued, his jaw biting down hard to send waves of pain running up the side of his skull. “My only regret is that we hadn’t met sooner. Maybe if we had…I wouldn’t have turned out this way. Maybe then…thing wouldn’t end this way.”
Fiora’s head and arms dropped into a flaccid state, falling to her knees as Talon drew his weapon back a few centimeters, the large crystal embedded in the blade now passing through her flesh. Ashram dropped his Mageblade in defeat, creating a dull thud as it landed on the dry sands. Collapsing to his knees, his shocked face shifted to a scowl of sorrow as he closed his eyes, praying that everything that had just happened was a horrible nightmare.
No…this…this isn’t real. It can’t be! He thought to himself as time seemed to stand still around him. This is a nightmare...let it be the case…let it be that I’ll wake up from this to hear her voice again. I don’t care what it is she says…she can complain…she can yell at me…anything!
No matter how much he wished it to be true, however, he knew it was nothing more than denial and guilt. He hated himself for what he had done. Though he had planned to carry out her death just moments ago, he hadn’t prepared himself to bear the sight of it actually happening.
Why…why was my vision so tunneled? I was so focused on stopping them that I didn’t realize…what would happen to the rest of you around me? What did I think was going to happen? He thought to himself angrily, pounding his fist hard into the stone below him to find that the pain rising from his knuckles couldn’t compare to that in his heart. Did I really think we could take on such overwhelming evil and at the end of the day, it would be all rainbows and butterflies for everyone? I manipulated you into joining this fight…I’m no better than they are!
”I’ve made my decision, I will see this through to the end.” Fiora’s words echoed through his mind, haunting every corner of it to drain every last ounce of his sanity.
I don’t want you to…I never wanted you to.
“And you thought that I would have been happy with that alternative?”
You would have lived.
”I chose to fight because I wanted to…I wanted to atone for the way I’ve treated everyone all these years.”
Fighting doesn’t atone for anything…it won’t atone for what I’ve done to you.
A cry of shock in Lux’s high pitched voice caused him to open his eyes again, in time to watch as a bright light came from the Noxian’s blade where it was embedded within her chest. Fiora’s body began to levitate into the air, causing Talon to completely withdraw his blade out of instinct. Small specks of light emerged from the wound, converging to form bands that wrapped around her body.
“What is this?” Ashram asked in shock as she levitated over his head, a bright aura of light engulfing the duelist. His heart jumped as he felt signs of life energy coming from her body when it had been lifeless just moments ago.
Fiora’s eyes shot open, the black shroud over them descending in a manner similar to that of a draining sink as she let out a demonic shriek of pain, gradually transitioning to a cry in her native voice. Streaks of darkness receded along her cheeks, traveling along an indeterminate path to reach the wound that the Noxian’s blade had created. A bright light engulfed her, centering around the open wound that began to close itself, shards of light merging to reform the flesh underneath.
As the light faded, Fiora’s body rapidly fell to the ground, Ashram reacting quickly to catch her falling figure to bring her safely to ground level. A wave of relief overwhelmed he gently held her in his arms, her chest rising slowly with steady breaths. He remained crouched, holding onto her as the others ran to her aid. The soft features of her face had returned, the dark veins that protruded from her face now gone to leave behind delicate pink skin unpurturbed by the darkness that had possessed her earlier. No signs of bleeding could be seen from where Talon’s blade had went through her, in its place a small black cross that resembled a tattoo on her skin.
“Is she?” Lux asked after a long pause, breaking the tense silence interrupted only by the howls of the background winds.
“Yeah,” Ashram answered in a calm voice, running the fingers of his free hand along smooth purple bangs. “She’s alive…and back.”
He barely had time to finish his words when her figure began to shift, her face turning slightly as she let out a pained groan. Struggled eyelids opened weakly, revealing cerulean pupils that stared back at the people whose gazes were focused upon her. She blinked a few times to focus her vision before she was able to clearly make out the details of those around her.
“Fi-…Fiorie?” Lux asked in an apprehensive tone, swallowing back her urge to hold her in a relentless embrace.
“Yeah…Lux? What just ha-“ She replied as she sat up, her words interrupted as Lux’s self control failed, her arms pulling the duelist’s shoulders towards her to cause a weak look of confusion to appear on the her face.
Fiora didn’t know how to react to her friend’s actions, nor did she have the energy to try and figure it out. Her head felt as though it had been hit repeatedly with a sledgehammer, a pounding that didn’t cease no matter how much she tried to ignore it. Every muscle in her body ached, causing her to wince in pain with every movement. Looking up at the others only made the mystery behind her situation deepen, as Ezreal, Talon, Ashram, and even Shen held a demeanor of happiness and relief on their faces. The look on their faces caused her heart to race, as she knew with unnerving certainty that something had happened with her. A blush appeared on her face as she realized her armor had been destroyed and her shirt ripped to expose part of her breasts. She desperately wanted to know why the smiles on the faces of those around her carried subtle burdened expressions, and why her blonde friend clung to her shoulders as tears streamed down the side of her cheeks. The fatigue of her body, however, gave her no chances to object, as she found herself unable to even pry Lux from her shoulders.
“Ashram…I’m sorry, I-“ Talon began to say in a low voice, his back turned against the others.
“We’ll talk later. There’s nothing to be sorry about…thank you.” Ashram replied as his gaze remained fixed on the vivid blue pupils of the duelist, eyes that he thought he would never see again.
Talon parted from the rest of his party, claiming to search for the night hunter, who was still missing. In reality, it was because he couldn’t bear to look Fiora in the eyes. He couldn’t live with himself had she not somehow revived after his attack. He had no explanation for what had happened. In the end, her returning to normal only brought him confusion over whether he should feel absolved for saving her, or guilty that the attack was originally meant to kill her.
Kavyn, though nothing will absolve me of my guilt for what I’ve done… at least for the moment, my sins have not been repeated. Talon thought to himself as he wandered amongst the ruins aimlessly, stopping as a sight ahead of him caught his attention.
General du Couteau’s body was slouched against a crumbling stone wall, his arm hanging over the edge. His shoulders moved weakly, rising with the shallow breaths that came with the approach of death. A pool of blood dyed the earth under him, flowing freely from his abdomen as everything below his pelvis had been mutilated by that last attack. He opened his eyes slightly to stare at the approaching Talon, his pupils now his native hazel color that the latter recognized.
“Talon…I see, you helped…to set me free…from their control.” Du Couteau struggled to say between breaths. “You’ve…become strong.”
“General! What happened to you?” Talon suddenly shot out, realizing that this was the voice of the real assassin that he had once served.
“The League…they deceived us…they’re the ones sparking wars between us and Demacia. I investigated it…but it was too late!” He continued, letting out a wet cough that ended with streaks of crimson oozing profusely from the corners of his mouth. “Swain and LeBlanc…they were possessed…ambushed me and tortured me for information. When I gave them none…I felt something crawling into my mind and…I lost all control of my body.”
“I know,” Talon answered, his eyes lowering slightly as he recalled his battle against LeBlanc days ago. “They’ve been taken care of, but the danger is far from over. I’m sorry, that we had to kill you.”
“You freed me,” Du Couteau corrected after a long pause of labored breathing. “Though I wasn’t in control, I saw every move you made…you’ve become strong…and now possess an honorable purpose. Go forth…do what must be don-“
A second bout of wet coughs interrupted his words, his lungs began to choke with blood rising from his abdomen. His voice became weaker as he approached death.
“Do what must be done…and do me a favor. Tell my daughters…I’m sorry…for disappearing the way I did.”
“I will,” Talon lied, knowing full well the true fate of the people in question, granting his former master one last bit mercy before death.
“Thank…you.” Du Couteau said, struggling to raise his hands slightly before they dropped completely, drapped over the stone wall. The life in his eyes disappeared as the remainder of the Noxian general’s life slipped away, a subtle but noticeable smile on his face.
“I’m sorry you had to die, but you died fighting. You died as yourself.” Talon said as he closed his eyes, opening them again only when the sound of footsteps shifting along the sands of Icathia met his ears.
“Don’t need to worry about me, I’m just dandy.” Vayne said in a sarcastic tone as she walked towards him from a distance, her cloak fluttering as wind began to kick up dust from the ground. Her right hand was held tightly over her right eye as multiple drops of blood continued to fall from her chin, her vision out of that eye blocked by streams of crimson fluid that had caked over her eyelids.
“Shauna, are you okay?” Talon shouted out as he began to rush towards the approaching night hunter.
“I’ll be fine. Just got the wind knocked out of me.” She said as she walked past the Noxian. As she approached the others, she examined the scene in front of her, staring intently as they stood in a circle around the fallen duelist.
Though the blood had blinded her right eye, she had witnessed everything that had happened. She was angry that Ashram had kept this information from her. The swordswoman’s significance in all of this had finally become clear, along with the reasoning behind her extraction from the Institute of War prior to the start of all of this. Vayne’s bitterness towards her, however, had all but intensified after that display of black magic, the same black magic that murdered her family.
She is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode and kill every one of us! The night hunter thought to herself, ignoring the pain that throbbed above her right eyelid with even the most subtle of movements. It was then that she had made up her mind. Seeing the devastation that she had caused them, there was but one option left. You’ve all become so protective of her, hoping she remains the way she is now, in denial of the danger she poses to us all.
Piltover Airship, High Altitude Flight Over the Voodoo Lands
“How are they?” Lux asked from her seated position on the ground as Ashram emerged from a door a few feet away, his gaze shifting towards her.
She sat with her legs legs bent at the knees and brought unnaturally close to her chest, her hands draped around them and held in a locked position. She kept her gaze forward, focusing at a small bug crawling that crawled aimlessly on the wall, wondering if their own efforts were as futile as the insect’s attempt to escape from the sealed vessel.
“They’re both stable. Shauna’s wounds were easy to heal, but Fiora…” He replied, his voice trailing off at the end as he didn’t really know how to continue that answer.
“I see.” She replied, lowering her head as smooth strands of golden blonde hair brushed against her arms. There was no reason to force him to explain any further; the hesitation in his voice was all she needed to understand him.
It hadn’t even been a day since she learned the truth about her friend on the other side of that door and already she wished she had never asked about it. Just when she thought they had caught a break, everything came violently tumbling down. Though originally overjoyed that Fiora was able to weild magic, Lux now began to wish for the days when the sword was the only weapon she ever relied on, when their friendship was so much simpler and the future seemed brighter.
At times like this, all I wanted was to close my eyes and forget where I was, losing myself in happier days. Only…that chance had long since come and gone.
Chapter 22: The Will of Blades
When I was young and felt the emptiness of an uncertain future, I wanted change and to know what lied ahead. When the future became clear and I could only see despair, all I wanted was what I used to have. Home, family, and friends, no matter how close or disconnected we become, we are never as close as we should. No one ever stops to think that the time we spend with them could be our last.
- Memoires of Luxanna Crownguard
Piltover Airship, High Altitude Flight Over the Voodoo Lands
Talon sat motionless in the corner of a room adjacent to the cockpit. To his side laid his armblade, a single gleaming crystal contrasting the otherwise weathered blade that reflects the mileage it had undergone over the years. It created a rattling sound against the dull iron floor underneath, corresponding to the random rumblings that accompanied the turbulent flight. He had sat there quietly since their departure from Icathia, going over the events of that day to try and make sense of what had happened. Hours had passed in isolation, yet he continued to sit there in silence, hoping for a revelation that never came.
A knock came from the door next to him, breaking the almost trance-like state he had been in since he boarded the airship.
“What do you want?” Talon snapped in a purposely rude tone as he had no desire to talk with anyone on that ship at this point. This was especially true in the case of Fiora, whom for some unknown reason, he had dreaded having to see again after what had happened.
“It’s me,” Ashram’s voice echoed from the other side of the door, followed by the sharp click of the door handle before swinging inwards. “We need answers.”
Talon stared silently at the former High Councilor before letting out a sigh, standing up to move towards a nearby seat. He knew it was inevitable that they would need to talk about what had happened in Icathia, only he wished that he would already have had an explanation of his own by now. He should have been happy that in the end, everyone made it through safely. After what he had seen and done, however, he knew that things were no longer black and white anymore, that the line between good and evil had been blurred beyond recognition.
“If you came here to ask what it was I did, don’t waste your breath. Your guess is as good as mine at this point.” Talon said as his gaze fixed upon the Summoner on the other side of the room. To say that he didn’t trust him at this point was an understatement. Though originally thankful for saving his life and the lives of his current companions, he began to wonder was it really the right path. After seeing Fiora being possessed by an evil so great that it made her unrecognizable, he began to accept that there are outcomes worse than death…and that was one of them.
“I came to tell you the truth…about what you saw. After you were able to save her when even I couldn’t, you deserve to know that what happened today only scratches the surface of her role in all of this.” Ashram replied, remaining motionless as he knew better than to provoke the assassin in a confined space.
He proceeded to explain everything that he knew about her, from his pledge to the Goddess to protect the Laurent family, the High Councilor’s scheme to corrupt her for years, and how Omen’s darkness that was intended to kill him only served to manifest the evil that had always been inside of her. As the assassin heard the details of everything that had transpired, he noticed the shift in the Summoner’s voice as he explained his role in all of this. He came to the conclusion that the man in front of him was stricken with guilt and blamed himself for the way things turned out. It was a type of guilt that only came with destroying the life of someone close to you, a guilt that he himself was all too familiar with.
“While it’s good and all to not be left in the dark any longer, it still doesn’t bring me any closer to finding an answer for what had happened.” Talon objected after pausing to analyze the overwhelming amount of information he had just received.
“I know. But I think the only one who can figure out what had happened is you. Somehow, it was you who sealed the darkness back inside and relinquished its control over her.” Ashram explained, noticing a change in the expression on the assassin’s face as he finished those last words.
“Sealed? You mean she’s-“ Talon began to say in horror, as a realization hit him.
“No, I can still sense the dark entity inside of her, only it’s contained somehow. Why? Does that mean something to you?”
“It may be nothing, but…” Talon began to say as he paced around the room, entranced deep in thought. “The moment my blade went through her, I felt regret…I lied when I said that I did it with the intention of killing her. In reality, I wanted nothing more than the power to cure her of whatever had taken ahold of her. Something told me that wasn’t possible…I knew that much, and instead I wanted just one other thing…to be able to see the girl I once knew…just one more time. That was when the light happened and she was back…just like that.”
“Hmm… then it may just be that your will was what saved her.”
“My will? That’s preposterous, I don’t possess an ounce of skill with magic and you expect me to believe that I somehow managed to do that by myself?” Talon snapped in disbelief.
“Do you have a better explanation? The altar underneath Icathia…I’ve said this once before. It grants us what we need in order to protect. This whole time, you were under the impression that it granted your blade the ability of holy magic to cut through the dark creatures of the Void, but what if that too was a reflection of your will?”
“Are you trying to suggest that…” Talon began to say before stopping himself, looking down to stare at his arm blade placed on the seat a few feet away from him.
“Is it so hard to believe? You’ve seen similar things haven’t you?” Ashram replied, causing Talon to recall his fights against Irelia in the Summoner’s Arenas, her blades seeming to move and bend to her will. “The altar granted you exactly what you needed to protect those around you. Though it appears there is a limit to its power, it gave you a blade that responds to your will. During your fight against du Couteau, you wanted to slay the darkness and it granted you holy magic; and when she became possessed by evil, it was your desire to see the real her again that gave you the power to seal away the darkness. In a way, the Goddess has granted you powers that surpasses even that of the Ionian Will of Blades.”
“If that’s true, then why?” Talon asked angrily, gritting his teeth together as he held his blade closer to his face, examining the large crystal embedded along its surface. “All my life I’ve been a murderer. Why would she grant me of all people this ability instead of you or any of the others, for that matter?”
“Because even if you don’t believe it, you aren’t without redemption. You chose to follow us, and made it your purpose to help save this world. Though I won’t ask why, even if it seems that you lug around a great burden, you’re faced with the one who carries a far greater guilt over what I’ve done than you can imagine. The Goddess saw you to be worthy and gave you this chance. Where you go from here is up to you.”
“And what about you?” Talon asked suddenly, taking the Summoner by surprise. “Where do you go from here?”
“I…” Ashram began, averting his gaze to look out the window over the blankets of clouds slowly passing by. After a long pause, he let out a sigh of resignation. “Wherever it is that she and the rest of you decide.”
Talon raised an eyebrow in response to his answer, one which he was not expecting. During the short time that he’s known the former High Councilor, the latter had always appeared in control of the situation, the coordinator of all of their efforts. The man that stood in front of him now appeared a different person, one which suffered a great defeat.
“As I look back on the decisions I’ve made in the past years, I wonder if I made even a single right choice. Right now, there are two options, we return to the Institute and prepare for the final fight, or we abandon this and see where things lead. This time, I’m afraid I no longer have any right to choose.” Ashram replied, pacing slowly to exit the room, leaving Talon standing motionlessly as he contemplated those last words.
Streaks of light penetrated the darkness behind her eyelids as she begun to awake, raising her right hand to the right side of her forehead. Feeling the remains of small cakes of blood over a cut that had largely been healed, Shauna Vayne let out a sigh as she rose from her lying position. Dizziness overcame her, as the results of her recent blood loss became more apparent. She closed her eyes, taking a moment to adjust before opening them again to catch the sight of Fiora lying in a bed a few feet away from hers.
She stood up and took a few steps closer, looking down to find the smaller crossbow still attached to her right arm. Raising her crossbow, she pointed it at the sleeping girl in front of her, the tip of the loaded bolt held just a few feet away from her chest. Her arm shook as she held her weapon in place, watching a loose fitting light blue shirt rising and falling with rhythmic breaths. To the night hunter, the person in front of her represented everything she hated in this world, someone possessed by dark magic so powerful that they have lost all control of themselves. She was the same as the witch who killed her parents and has to be stopped before she hurts anyone else.
As Vayne prepared to fire a bolt into the duelist’s heart and end the danger that she posed to everyone, the latter’s demeanor suddenly changed, her face now showing a struggled expression of agony. The look startled the night hunter for a moment, causing her to recall that same look on her own face many years ago. She was but a child at the time and all she could do was hide as she heard the screams and agony of her parents as they were tortured by a murderous witch. When she couldn’t bear to look through the cracks any longer, she stared back at herself in a mirror, her face held in one of terror and agony as she felt helpless to do anything. The image was one that was burned into her memory forever, like a scar that would never heal.
Seeing this same expression now on Fiora’s face caused her to see herself from a past long ago reflected in her eyes. Though a part of her hated everything about the person in front of her, she couldn’t help but feel like the roles had become reversed and she was the one who was intent on murdering an innocent child. She shook her head hard, trying to suffocate the thoughts of guilt and doubt that wouldn’t leave her alone, closing her eyes as she tried to force herself to pull the trigger.
Just retract my fingers…just a few centimeters and this will be all over. I could protect everyone from a danger far greater than anything we’ve encountered thus far. Vayne thought to herself as she bit down hard against her lower lip. Given what the duelist was capable of if she ever became possessed again, this was the only logical choice. So why is it so hard to do this? It’s not like she and I were ever close…why can’t I do it?
Letting out a breath that she had been holding, she swung her hand down, pointing the tip of her bow at the floor. Opening her eyes again, she held an expression of defeat as she continued to watch the figure in front of her continue to shift her head; her mouth opened slightly allowing strands of purple to become caught on her lips. Letting out a sigh, she turned to take a seat on the bed that she had woken up on, shifting her gaze to focus on the tip of her bow.
These bolts…sharp…quick…they strike from a distance. They allow me to attack first, ask questions later. They prevent me from having to get close, to see the faces of my enemies. Without seeing them up close, there is no room for hesitation. She recited to herself, closing her eyes angrily as thoughts flooded her mind. So why do I hesitate now? Life is fleeting, like the bolts of a crossbow, they quickly and surely disappear in an instant. No one life is worth more than another, so why…why is it that I hesitate to kill, knowing that when she wakes up, she could very well go on a rampage again and kill us all?
“Shauna?” A soft female voice said aloud, causing the night hunter to tense up as she her gaze shot towards the duelist, watching as she turned her head slowly to face her. Fiora’s voice was very soft and weak, contrasting the normally strong and obnoxiously arrogant tone that the night hunter was previously used to. A part of her instinctively wanted to defend herself, the muscles in her right arm tightening as she prepared to raise it towards the person in front of her. “Where…what happened?”
“You mean you don’t remem-“ Vayne began to reply flippantly, stopping herself as she she saw the look of despair appearing on the duelist’s face. It was clear from that reaction that it was not the case, that she likely remembered every detail of the devastation that she had caused.
“No…I remember.” She said, arched eyebrows flattening out as she lowered her eyelids towards her feet, letting out a long sigh. “I nearly killed all of you.”
Fiora slowly struggled to sit up, a wave of vertigo hitting her as she made it up, causing the all too familiar nausea to rise to the back of her throat. Planting both arms against her legs, she swallowed hard, barely managing to push the dry heaves back.
“So why am I still here?” Fiora continued, raising a hand to brush a few strands of hair aside and out of her mouth. “Especially you, you always hated me, so why didn’t you just kill me and put an end to it?”
“Trust me…the thought occurred to me.” Vayne replied bluntly, noticing the lack of surprise on the duelist’s face.
“Then why didn’t you? After what happened, I wouldn’t have even held a grudge. I don’t deserve to live.”
“I don’t know!” Vayne snapped, standing up suddenly in a way that made Fiora think that she was still vulnerable to being executed. “I guess…it’s because I would have been no better than the murderous witch that killed my parents…and tried to kill me.”
“Your parents?” Fiora asked, her voice weak and dry, with her face held in confusion.
“Yeah…contrary to what you may think, you’re not the only one who lost your parents. Mine was killed when I was still a young child…murdered in front of my eyes.” Vayne answered in an apprehensive tone, causing Fiora to gasp in surprise. “Unlike you, I kept news of this event hidden from the public. That’s why you never heard of it until now.”
“How…how are you able to live with something like that? I can’t… it…it tears away at me every time I think of the day I lost them, one after another.” Fiora asked, letting out a soft snort as her voice began to crack at the end.
“You move on with life.” Vayne replied simply, making her wonder how those words could come so easily. “The way I see it is you have two options…you can either sit around wallowing in self pity on the inside, or you make it a point to keep going and face your inner demons head on.”
Fiora lowered her head slightly, unable to push back the feeling that she was being scolded like a kid by the woman in front of her. Even though it was easier said than done, she couldn’t deny the validity of those words. With this newfound understanding of their similar backgrounds, she found herself giving a lot more credit to the night hunter than she had ever expected.
“I want you to understand something. You’re right to think that I hated associating with you, but it wasn’t simply because I found your attitude disdainful, though I won’t deny that definitely contributed.” If looks could kill, Fiora’s expression would have murdered the moment those words reached her ears. Even though she told herself she was going to hear the night hunter out, it took a lot of forcing to hold back the angry response that came almost instinctively. “It was because you live your life as a lie, consumed by self pity on the inside so you put up a front to hide your insecurities. The others may not realize it, but I do. Because as hard as both of us try to deny it, our childhoods almost mirror each others. Where our paths diverged was how we chose to handle our loss. I chose to accept it and move on with my life…I fought to keep others from having to suffer the same fate as myself. You, on the other hand, you hid your true self and instead fought aimlessly only to keep your insecurities from surfacing. It’s been too long…it’s time to grow up and move on.”
“Shauna...I…” Fiora began to say, her voice trailing off at the end. She stared intently at the window next to her, a dim reflection on its surface revealing a pathetic look on her face. Her eyes suddenly widened as she recalled her mother’s voice guiding her during her training process.
”It’s up to you from here on,” She recalled, coming to the realization of the double meaning behind it. This is what you meant, wasn’t it? You wanted me to move on, and stop dwelling in the past. So far, all I’ve done was hold onto the pieces connecting me to the days before you passed, to the point that I was reliant on them.
“Shauna,” She began after a long pause, causing the night hunter to look over in surprise. “Thank you.”
“Well those are two words I never expected to hear from you of all people. What gives?”
“All this time, I thought holding onto my memories and not letting go was what I was suppose to do.” Fiora answered, a little more strength behind her words as she slowly stood up to pace towards the window, staring out into the distance. Instead of feeling awkward about letting it all out to someone like Vayne, now that she had actually said it, it felt like weight had been lifted off of her shoulders, one that had been pulling at her from below. “I couldn’t bear to move on because…I just couldn’t. Knowing that you and I shared such a similar past, yet you emerged far more confident in yourself than I ever was, I now realize that it is possible. It helped me understand that moving on doesn’t mean insulting them, but rather is what they would have wanted.”
“No one wants to see their loved ones in despair. Had the roles been reversed, would you have wanted to see your mother and father forever stricken with grief?” Vayne responded, noticing the affect of the younger woman lightening as though a burden had been lifted.
“No…I wouldn’t and yet that’s all I’ve done. I let my grief get the best of me and that’s what almost got everyone killed.” Fiora answered, turning around to walk past the night hunter towards the door.
“So what’ll you do?”
“The same thing you’ve done, move on and make good on my goal to protect those around me. So far you’ve done well to hunt down users of dark magic that prey on the innocent, similar to the one who killed your parents. The ones responsible for the death of mine, however, are still at large and are the same ones that threaten to drag the whole world into darkness. This time, it’s my turn to look forward without hesitation…to protect others from having to know the despair of my past.”
Hmm…never thought I’d see the day that you and I would actually see eye to eye. Maybe there’s hope for you after all. Vayne thought to herself as the door opened with a prolonged squeak, getting to her feet to follow the duelist.
Lux shot up from her seated position as Fiora stepped into the main corridor, looking intently at her to notice softer facial features than she had previously remembered. After witnessing her rampage against Ashram, and the subsequent look that made her seem as though she was on the verge of death, the blonde had been unable to face her friend. She had expected for her to emerge from her room stricken with guilt or worse, but instead found her in a state that resembled relief.
“Fiorie, are you-“ Lux began until a hand on her shoulder caused her to stop in mid-sentence.
“It’s okay Lux…I think I’ll be okay.” She replied in a calm voice, lifting her hand from the blonde’s shoulder to continue on her way towards the bridge of the airship.
How odd… when your hand touched me, the feeling of your magic energy felt lighter… and the darkness seemed weaker. I’m glad, but…how? Lux thought to herself as Vayne emerged from the room.
“Get the others and have them meet in the bridge. There’s a lot we need to discuss.” Vayne said simply, causing Lux to tilt her head slightly before nodding in acknowledgement.
Fifteen minutes later, Reginald Ashram walked through the sliding door into the bridge of the airship, a look of disbelief on his face upon laying eyes on Fiora. He looked around to see the rest of his allies had gathered, meeting the gaze of everyone else with the exception of Ezreal, whose back was turned as he continued to monitor the ship’s flight mechanics.
“Thanks for coming so quickly.” Fiora began, standing up from her seated position in a gesture to address an audience. “It’s time we planned our attack.”
“No, no more.” Ashram objected, his sudden outburst surprising everyone, their heads reeling heads towards him. “This has become far too dangerous. We almost lost you earlier today because we were too focused on this quest to realize that we may not make it. I started this mess; I don’t want any of you involved in it any longer. It’s my responsibility to clean it up, not yours.”
“It became ours the moment it all began. Sure, it’s dangerous, more dangerous than anything we’ve done in the past, but that doesn’t mean we don’t owe it to everyone to try.” Fiora replied.
“Don’t you get it? We almost lost you once today…I can’t afford to risk losing you again. Every time you encounter the dark magic, you come closer to losing control again. I don’t know what will happen if it takes over a second time. The reason for this happening was because of me, I was the one who made you become in tune with magic and allowed it to awaken inside of you. The next time it happens again, you may die.”
“I know of the risk, but don’t you see? I don’t care.” She snapped, her fist clenched with the skin over her knuckles turning white from the tight stretching, catching the former High Councilor by surprise. “At the rate things are going, more and more Void spawn will enter this world and it’ll be a matter of time before I end up succumbing to it anyways. If that’s going to happen, then at least I’d go down fighting.”
“This isn’t your fight.”
“It became mine…no…it became all of ours. I think I understand now…you and I are the same.” She explained, causing the others to shoot her a look of surprise at that last statement. “In the same way that I’ve been stricken with grief for years, you’ve allowed your guilt to consume you…guilt that you brought me into all of this. Even if you hadn’t intervened, I might have ended up the same way, either killed in their mass sacrifice or worse.”
“As hard as it is to believe, I’m inclined to agree with her.” Vayne added, her arms crossed over her chest with her back leaned against the wall. “You came to me for help years ago because you couldn’t take on three High Councilors by yourself, didn’t you? What’s changed in that time to make you think you have better odds now?”
“Nothing, but even with all of us together, the chances are slim to none.”
“So what?” Fiora objected, causing Ashram to look upon her cerulean eyes intently. “You said it yourself once, there are some things you do because it has to be done. I’ve made my decision; I will fight with you to the end. As for everyone else, you know the risk of what is to come. If any of you wants to back out, I won’t hold it against you.”
Ashram wanted to object, but no words came to him. He knew that he had never met anyone more stubborn than her, and nothing he said would change her mind. He couldn’t help but notice, however, the subtle change in the look of her eyes. He had expected pain or sorrow after what had happened, but instead met orbs of softened determination. It was as though she was an entirely new person from the fragile, insecure girl he had watched over for years.
“I finally found a purpose that involves saving others rather than killing them. I’m not going to abandon it that easily. Count me in.” Talon answered, interrupting the brief silence as the others contemplated the situation.
“My blade is yours; I will see this through to the end.” Shen replied in a firm voice, nodding his head at the duelist in acknowledgement.
“Heh, when the world is falling apart, the hero always comes through!” Ezreal said enthusiastic, raising his fist into the air as he momentarily turned to face the others.
“I promised that I would never burden others because of my own weakness again. If I stopped now, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. Count me in!” Lux exclaimed, happy to see Fiora’s resilience despite everything she had been through.
“If they succeed, everything I’ve done to protect the innocent would have been for nothing.” Vayne said as she took a step forward, raising her smaller crossbow next to her head. “I will strike them down, just like all the evil I’ve encountered before.”
“Don’t you see now?” Fiora continued, blinking before letting out a satisfied smirk as she stared into the reddish-brown eyes of the former High Councilor. “For the first time, it doesn’t matter who we are, or where we came from. We’ve united for one purpose. In this rare instance, we only have each other to rely on. Alone, none of us stand a chance, but together we have hope. So what’s it going to be?”
“Hmm…Fine, we’ll do it your way.” Ashram replied hesitantly after a long pause. He knew that he would have had no chance going up against the other High Councilors by himself. Though he would never admit it publicly, his objections were selfish, based entirely on the premise that he didn’t want the guilt of losing the girl in front of him again.
“Where to then?” Ezreal asked from behind the pilot’s seat.
“Valley of the Magi, 100 miles directly north of the Institute. It’s where the portal will be.” Ashram ordered. “Get ready; this is what it all comes down to.”
Just like that, it was decided. To keep the light in this world from fading, we journeyed to where it all began. The place that was responsible for the evil that threatened the fate of our world was also the same place that brought us all together. Who’s to say that this alone wasn’t a miracle in its own way?
Chapter 23: At Road's Crossing is up.
This chapter had too many characters and wouldn't fit into a single post on here. Stupid 30000 character limit. At least the formatting on there is nicer than what I can achieve on here. As always, rate/review.
Also, since I have some space now, not going to lie, while uploading all of the chapters, I noticed that my writing style had changed a LOT during the course of the chapters. It kind of changed around 10 chapters into it because in my mind, I felt like the reader was rather disconnected from the story early on and it didn't flow as smoothly. Unfortunately it would take way too much work to go back and edit that many chapters, so I may do that a little later on but for the moment, I'm trying to focus on getting the story moving.
Also, if it hasn't been made obvious by now, you'll notice that I kind of shift from the perspective of different people during the course of the chapters. I did this because I wanted to create a more dramatic effect of the stuff going on, and chose the people to look through the eyes of based on whose personality would be likely to produce this the best. Let me know if you like this or if it becomes too hard to follow. The two I tended to focus on were Fiora and Lux.
Lux, if you haven't figured it out by now, is the narrator figure because Riot has described her personality as a happy go-lucky person whose true self feels sad and abandoned on the inside. I intended this story to be a rather dark, depressing story and having this story written as though via her personal memoirs sets up this mood pretty well.
Fiora is the main protagonist/heroine of the story because I feel that she's the direct opposite of Lux, both in design and personality. Even with the rewrite of her background story, all we know is her character is as one-dimensional as you can get: arrogant. So many complaints about her having one of the most boring backstories have been posted. So, I wanted to try my hand at essentially taking a character that we know only the appearance of and that she's arrogant, and decided to see if I could create a more whole character with more depth to it than any other character. It was challenging cause unlike Riven or many of the other characters that have an established, respectable story to their past, this was me essentially creating an entirely new character and praying that it is believable.
Also, not going to lie, this story ended up far longer than I had expected. I initially was thinking of making this story return to where the Prologue was at around chapter 15 and finish it at around chapter 20ish, but clearly that's not happening. Along the way, ideas just started flowing and I decided to start giving the LoL world a more in depth lore, and had them explore parts of Valoran that I never originally intended when I first started.
Chapter 24: Fleeting Chains is up!
Same as with last chapter, too many characters for the forums to let me put into one post, so will post it on there. Feel free to leave comments/reviews.
© 2015 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.