Chapter 8: Light Binding
Nasus runs through the halls of the Institute like his tail is on fire.
He certainly doesn’t have one. It is actually faintly amusing when he gets the inevitable question from most-to-all of the female champions he encounters, since the only members of his kind that had tails were the females.
As a side benefit of this evolutionary fact, he understands what the human idiom “get some tail” means.
As he passes under countless identical dark blue archways, he imagines Lux, her bright smiling face and sky-colored eyes, wearing perhaps the sand-colored dress of a priestess of Registrana, her hair held back by a circlet of gold and sapphires. She tends to the holy edicts on the walls of the Fane of Learning, the way leading to his library, brushing off gathered sand with a cloth, her tail switching rhythmically behind her, fur the color of sunlight and tufted on the end.
He starts and blinks away the daydream. What a thing to think of!
Nasus shakes his head briskly, leaping over the yordle with the spiked gloves standing at the entrance to the library. He smells the space-warping magic before he sees it pulse around the tiny creature’s fingers, and a blast of his spirit fire singes the fur on the creature’s face.
“I’m busy,” he growls, and Veigar meekly sticks his gloves behind his back.
He shoulders open the heavy doors and nods a companionable greeting to Madred, who is surrounded by a bevy of strangely garbed humans and human-like creatures. There are four in total: a being of sizzling energy that is a painfully bright, unnatural blue; a woman in a mixture of black armored plates and scraps of cloth that protect very few of her vital organs, with three floating spheres orbiting around her long, white hair; Ryze, who he recognizes as a friendly enough sort, using his tattooed elbows to push the others out of the way; and the dark-winged female, Morgana, who he so clearly remembers from his last match.
The bookcase the Measured Tread goes on is right in front of them.
Oh, by Registrana’s scales…!
He tucks the book firmly under his arm and starts to try and push through the crowd. The energy creature makes his fur stand on end when he bumps into it accidentally, and it turns its helmet on him with eyeless condescension.
“Curator Nasus,” it says with a crackle of power.
“…Tekepi,” Nasus says after a moment of thought. He frowns critically and adds, “poorly bound tekepi.”
Madred gulps as the creature turns on him fully and raises a clawed, amorphous hand. Ryze takes the opportunity to grab the scroll from Madred’s satchel and mutters, “Barrier, ah, finally, the summoners are so very slow these days…”
Morgana joins the orb-woman in laughing at his predicament, and Nasus sighs. Does no one appreciate how busy he is?
“Nek’asha’mei!” he snarls, and the three shriek in pain as dazzling light bursts in front of them. Nasus, who prudently put a paw over his eyes before he cast the spell, shoulders through them and shoves the book onto the shelf.
“Simple fools,” the energy creature growls, and Nasus barely has time to shout the nine protective runes of the shell before a torrent of hissing, violet-azure light washes over him.
“Stop it!” Morgana hisses, tugging on his arm, “You want to get thrown out again?”
Madred cowers behind Nasus’s spell as he glares at the energy creature.
“How dare you fight in a place of knowledge!” he roars.
“Idiot men,” the orb-woman comments. “Get out, Xerath.”
“I am no slave bound in fragments of stone,” Xerath crackles, staring at Nasus. Spools of energy drift off the floor and touch his body. “We of Old Shurima knew of your kind, Curator, and you are no gods!”
“I apologize,” he says calmly. “I thought Madred had listened to my advice—this place needs a tekepi desperately—and simply done it wrong.”
“Are you crazy?” Madred hissed. “I wouldn’t touch that spell with King Javan’s lance.”
“There’s been a new spell approved for use on the Fields,” Morgana said, her ravaged face curling into a sneer. “Why don’t you just give it to us to study, Madred, and we’ll see no need to intrude in this dusty hole any longer.”
“Ryze took it,” Nasus said immediately, and pointed out the door.
“Ryze—!? That *******—“the orb-woman said, and instantly the three were pushing each other to get out the door fastest. Nasus murmurs “ah’ke” and his shield vanishes, the spell returned to the Great Library.
“Thank you, Nasus,” Madred says fervently, shaking his hand. Nasus looks down at him, slightly bemused.
“You are welcome,” he growls, and Madred shifts nervously.
“Well, there’s one more thing,” the librarian says hesitantly, “someone’s in your spot, if you’re here for—well, breakfast and lunch both, I suppose.”
“Who is it?” he asks.
“The Prophet of the Void,” Madred says, lowering his voice to a whisper, “Malzahar.”
They sit in opposite armchairs and studiously avoid one another’s gaze.
“Nice weather we’re having,” Malzahar says gloomily.
“Yes, lovely,” he says, shifting uncomfortably. He’d brought along a filling mystery, with a slender romance novel for dessert and a refreshing scientific text to quench his thirst. The Prophet of the Void readings a book whose cover he had hidden completely with his long, flowing sleeves.
This is no help at all to protect him from Nasus, who knows the contents of every book around him.
“Women: What Makes Them Tick?” he inquires after several uncomfortable moments. Malzahar jumps so high that a voidling pops out of his heavily embroidered trouser legs.
The purple blob climbs its way up to the armrest and fans the cowled face of its master.
“Ulp,” the Prophet of the Void stammers.
“Something on your mind?” he asks kindly, concealing the raging curiosity that’s gnawing at his mind. Why, this was a perfect opportunity to find out more about the morphological changes of being exposed to void energy, how it effects emotions and desire, and most importantly—Malzahar might let him borrow the book.
Malzahar puts his head in his hands and mutters something that sounds rather like bucket. Nasus raises an eyebrow. A bucket? He likes buckets? Maybe he means helmets—his face is covered, too, and so is Kassadin’s, now that he thinks about it. Maybe the Void carries with it a compulsion to hide one’s face, a subtle signal of deception!
“She’s not even really alive,” Malzahar groans. “There’s something so lifeless, so disturbing about her, and yet a peculiar joy at death and destruction—“
“—just like me—“
Was he talking about—
“—the totally alien Lady of Clockwork, Orianna.”
Nasus sat there, totally stunned. The mechanical wasn’t even made of flesh, not remotely the same species, skinned with metal, totally different, and yet he was still attracted.
The last few words ring in his head as he stares at his hands.
“There’s even a ball a few days from now,” Malzahar continues, “I have no idea what to do.”
The voidling sighs mournfully and dissolves into a puff of smoke.
“All will be well,” Nasus says automatically. “Simply attend this gathering and approach the Lady there.”
“Will go you as well?” Malzahar asks, drying his eyes with a particularly limp voidling that has crawled out of his collar. “I understand you want to learn more about human interactions, Curator.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Nasus says. “Perhaps I will.”
He stands, suddenly restless. He wants to see how Lux’s match is getting on.
As he leaves, bidding Malzahar farewell, he sees the title of the book’s latest chapter.
It is called “Compliments.”
Chapter 9: Lucidity
Compliments, he thinks. How do you compliment a human?
Nice fur, he mouths experimentally. No, that wouldn’t do at all, unless he was speaking to the cat-woman or Rengar, and he doesn’t think either of them would take that well.
He strides along the corridors towards the spectating rooms, his face stern with thought. Who could help him understand human flattery? He needed someone who had been on both sides of compliments, someone that was an expert at getting their way, clever, cunning, beguiling…
He stared for a moment too long at a particularly rich splash of blue on the wall, shook his head, and moved on. He wanted to see how Lux was getting along, especially after the disturbing turn she’d taken during their first match together. The Measured Tread, her illness, the match—they had to be connected somehow. She would know, and unless he decided to lift the information carefully from her mind, like a book with pages too worn to read with his eyes, he would have to figure out how to get her to confide in him. In time, she should, but he had the sense that he needed to solve this mystery, quickly. There was something…something in the air, something that made senses that had experienced thousands of years of protecting his library prickle in alarm. In all the time in the League, it had only happened once, when Xerath had touched him this morning.
He smiles slightly as his ears perk up with the sounds of the spectating rooms. It was nice to have a project, something to distract his mind from the unease he felt about Xerath. And while he watched, he could do some maintenance on his claws and armor. With this in mind, he breathes a word of power, and catches a heavy disk of sandstone as it drops out of the empty air. Carved on its face is a scarab, pincers wide, with a circle of glass set in its forehead. Under the glass, dark, verdant mist roiled, cramped in the small space.
Ahead, an archway had a huge, grotesque eye carved out of the stone in the center, spidery gold runes around it announcing:
ASK A NOVICE SUMMONER BY AN OPEN VIEWING CRYSTAL
TO SHOW YOU A MATCH OF YOUR CHOOSING!
CITY STATE MATCHES IN THE CENTER HALL
“Not even a little?” a slender female asks the door guard, her lips pushed up in a pout. Her skin is the color of blueberries, if they were crushed and mixed with blood, and she is wearing a… lattice of straps that stripes her long legs and arms, but only barely goes over her chest.
He shivers. With his senses, he sees the malice dripping off her like poison, thick and shiny on the tips of her clawed hands.
“Not even a little, Widowmaker,” the guard said sternly, his hand dropping to the hilt of the mageblade Nasus senses hidden in a simple sheath. “Now take the limiter, and I can let you in. And no, before you ask, you can’t enter without it, the League doesn’t like it when matches get interfered with.”
The female cackles and pats him on the cheek.
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about little old me,” she croons, digging in her nails a little, and Nasus frowns, his hands tightening around the scarab stone, at the scent that laces the air. The guard licks his lips as she leans forwards and runs the same hand down his chest, leaning forwards to purr, “I’ll just get it for you.” Her other hand goes the guard’s belt, strung with many tiny violet vials, and passes over them as she reaches for the hilt—
He hesitates no longer.
The scene freezes. Calmly, he lets the sands of time spill into the hand he has thrust into the hourglass. As they collect, he walks towards the female, watching the particles in the air move away from him and leave a trail behind him as they float, motionless.
He pulls his hand out and throws the grains at her, and time snaps back to normal. The guard blinks, and recoils away from her as she grimaces and tries to whip around, only to find herself trapped as if the air has turned to quicksand around her. Slowly, she rotates, her eyes wide and furious.
He reaches through the golden veil of sand around her and grabs her by her slender throat, heaving her up into the air.
“Your soul will be measured,” he growls, and she flinches as he pulls at her essence, tearing it away from her and sending it to his staff, floating quietly in the Deserts Between until he needs it. Then he drops her, and wills time forwards as he does, so she slams into the floorstones.
To his surprise, she chuckles throatily, and he realizes that, impossibly fast, she had flipped herself over and caught herself.
“Nasus,” she coos. “I was only playing, you know.”
“You are evil and I do not trust you,” he growls. “I am a protector and this man will be protected.”
“She’s being honest,” the guard commented wryly, “she does this every time.”
He turns to look at him, his jaw hanging open, and the female laughs.
“Poor Curator. You are so very quick to judge,” she says, and he shifts in his discomfort, hunching his shoulders. His mind aches from the strain of the time spell, the most powerful version of the incantation called “wither” on the Fields of Justice. “Still,” the Widowmaker adds playfully, “I don’t blame you. You’re right about me, of course, but I’m not stupid enough to feed in the Institute.”
She winks at him, and vanishes into the shadows after snatching a vial from the guard’s belt and swallowing it in one minute. He growls, and then snarls and shudders as cold lips press against his ear.
“My name is Evelynn, doggy,” she hisses, “and I may be bad…but I feel good.”
He silently reaches out a hand to the guard, takes a vial, and pours it into his mouth. It tastes terrible, and he gags as he swallows and feels his link to his mental archives of knowledge and his access to the Deserts Between snap closed. He tucks the disc under his arm and strides inside.
He knows where Evelynn is going, if not where she is. He needs her, and Ahri.
Two females, skilled in seduction. If they can’t help him, no one can.
This chapter got so long I decided I was going to break it up so I could get it out to you earlier. Enjoy!
Chapter 10: Final Spark
When he steps through the doorway, he is plunged into a miasma of noise, smoke, and heat. Crowds of summoners and champions, mostly mingling in with their own kind, are gathered around various pits sunk into the stones. In the center of the depressions are diamond-shaped, slender crystals. As he watches, he sees the dark-winged female, Morgana, step up to one and touch it with one of her blackened hands. Instantly, light and color springs up from the pale depths of the crystal, exploding into images above it. The angel steps backwards and sits down on the steps of the pit as an image of another winged female, this one in golden armor, forms from the chaos, fighting desperately against an engorged Cho’Gath. It looks like the Void creature is winning as it closes its jaws on the bright angel’s arm, but as it bites down the female shouts and plunges her shining sword through its skull.
The voice of the announcer joins with the tumult of the others in the room—Cho’gath has been slain!
“Damn!” Morgana hisses. “First Ryze getting the official copy of Barrier all to himself, and now Kayle’s winning—“
He looks away from her, aware that he’s been distracting from his goal. He looks around, trying to find one of the crystals that’s not in use.
“Followed me, hmmm?” Evelynn whispers and he feels her claws tap on his breastplate. He jumps and looks down, watching her smile widely and show her fangs.
“Yes,” he says simply. “I require your assistance, but not at this time. I am here for a more important purpose.”
“Oh? What’s the doggy sniffing after?” she cackles, a nail pinging as she runs a finger up to the great emerald in the center of his armor. He bats her hand away with a growl, his other hand tightening around the sandstone disc. The mist trapped between the scarab’s jaws writhes impatiently.
“I seek to observe the Lady Crownguard’s match,” he answers her stiffly.
“Lady—oh, she’s no lady,” Evelynn murmurs, a wicked light in her eyes. She slides her hand into his, and his fur stands on end at the sensation of wrongness that emanates from her as her blue skin touches him. “What’s your interest in her, pup?”
“I think the pup in this conversation would be you, demon,” he says mildly. “I have seen mountains fall into dust and rise from the sands of the Eternal Empire.”
“Well aren’t you impressive,” she hisses. “I suppose you’ll also follow with how you’ve never lost a match and how you have a whole harem of beast-women at your beck and call. Mmmm, I wonder if the big dog gets a little cougar on the side…”
He bares his teeth at her and snarls, “I am not infallible, and I’ve no mate in this world or any other—“
“There was one, I see,” she chuckles, almost absentmindedly. He suddenly realizes her claws are digging into his palm, and thin streams of his immortal blood are dripping into her hand. “A black-feathered bird with cunning eyes. Looks pretty.”
“T’sa,” he gasps, a shock of pain running through him. The demon on his arm smiles with delight.
“Delicious,” she croons, “but have no fear, Curator. I’m turning over a new leaf, you see. I’ll be happy to help you.”
She pulls on his hand he follows her blindly, lost in agonized thought. T’sa, beautiful T’sa…ah, he should have never returned to the empty hallways of his library, to be caught by cruel spells and torn forever from his home—
Then he sees her, bright, lovely, shining golden, perfect and eternal as the sun, smiling and shouting as light explodes from her wand and a blue blur leaps past her, hurling an orb of shining energy into the thick of the team fight. Ahri returns to her with another flash of spirit energy and the two smile at each other as the slightly awed voice of the announcer booms—Aced!
“They’re a very good team,” Evelynn comments almost gently. “Ahri has 26 kills, and Lux has 12. She’s been feeding her kills the whole game. An excellent team player, your Lady.”
“She is no one’s Lady,” he says, watching quietly as he runs the sandstone disk over his claws. “She is unique and belongs to herself alone.”
“Perhaps,” the Widowmaker croons. “Ah, look, they’ve surrendered. An excellent win for those two. Their summoners for this game are close, I’ve heard—you’ve seen Ilarin? He’s rather intimate with Miss Eyowyn—“
“Eyowyn?” he says, distracted from watching the afternoon sunlight glitter on Lux’s hair as she shakes hands with her enemies. He’s been summoned by her quite a few times, always to control the top lane. She seems a nice enough female, for a summoner.
“Yes, she’s Ahri’s summoner in this match,” Evelynn murmurs. “She rather likes to choose me as well.”
“Hmph,” Nasus growls. He would have thought Eyowyn had better taste. With a push of his finger, he knocks in the glass between the scarab’s jaws, and shivers slightly as the mist rushes over him, cleansing dirt and sweat from his fur and polishing his armor to a mirror-bright shine. As soon as it returns, he dismisses the trinket back to the Deserts Between.
With a flash of blue light, the crystal goes dark and sinks back into its socket. Sharp pops of magic announce the arrival of the recently battling champions, and Nasus immediately looks for the pale tails of Ahri.
“Widowmaker,” Nasus growls, seeing a flash of white fur, “I must ask you a favor—you and Ahri.”
“A favor? Interesting, interesting,” she replies, her eyes sparkling. “Sounds like fun...maybe even painful fun. That’s the best kind.”
He smiles at her gratefully, and pushes through the crowd. Ahri’s dark clothes are soaked to her body in a way that leaves many of the humans around her staring. She is blowing kisses at her admirers when he shoulders his way to the front.
“Fox-woman,” he says, as she looks up at him in coy surprise, “can you take myself and the Widowmaker to your chambers?”
At this she chokes in surprise, and Evelynn clasps her hands together, her lips pulling back over her teeth.
“Oh, fun indeed!” she coos over the shocked silence that now surrounds them.
Nasus looks around, puzzled. Was it something he said?
“Of…of course,” Ahri says, staring at him in a way he thinks appears disturbingly hungry. “It would be a pleasure.”
He follows the fox-woman, wondering why she keeps looking over her shoulder at him. He doesn’t see Lux. He wishes he could. She makes so much more sense than these females, with their looks and their truly uncomfortable touching. Why must everyone feel the need to touch him all the time? Lux, Karma, Evelynn, Ahri…
He shakes his head in bewilderment and is ducking under the archway to exit the spectating rooms when he sees her. There’s a huge male human towering over her, encased in a shell of gold and blue metal. Her little shoulders are hunched and one of his huge gauntleted hands is clamped around her wrist.
She tilts her head up to him and he turns and drags her along behind him, out another exit.
“We have to follow them,” he says urgently, and the fox-woman and the demoness whip around in surprise.
“You continue to surprise me,” Evelynn breathes. “You wanted reconnaissance?”
“Oh,” Ahri says sadly.
“It’s difficult for me to explain swiftly, but in brief: I believe Lux has some form of mental malady afflicting her that is causing her difficulty in her matches,” he says urgently, loping to the corner and peering around it. Evelynn, with a brief, disbelieving shake of her head, vanished with a wink of her painted eyes and he smelled her scent as it moved up to him.
“They’re going to the Demacian wing. You might be rather noticeable, big fellow,” she whispers silkily as Ahri slinks up behind them, her tails drooping slightly.
“Not doggy?” he asks, smiling slightly even as he looks after Lux with worry. The big human looks like he is hurting her.
Evelynn huffs, the air puffing against his fur.
He growls under his breath. “Who is he?” he asks the two females.
“Garen,” Ahri says instantly, a brief, knowing smirk passing across her face. “Very stoic. Disciplined. A paragon of Demacia.”
Evelynn laughs and he grimaces in confusion before setting it aside for another time.
“I must protect her,” he says firmly. “I worry for her safety.”
“They’re going to see you!” Evelynn hisses. “I can slip into the shadows and follow them, but it must be me alone!”
“Can you extend your stealth to cover all of us?” Ahri asks.
“I’d need quite the power source,” the invisible female snarls.
“Echa,” he growls, and his staff comes eagerly out to meet him. “Fox-woman, hold on to the tip. Demoness, take the head. Use my strength to power your veil.”
“Oh that sounds naughty,” the she-devil cackles, but he feels her hands latch on to the carved jade head. Ahri, a little hesitantly, takes hold of the wickedly sharp bottom. There is a rushing feeling, like slimy dark water crawling over him, and he can no longer see his hands.
“Go!” Evelynn hisses. “I’ll muffle our noises, but I can’t hold it for long (oh what I do to brighten up an afternoon)—“
“Thank you,” he whispers.
“Don’t flatter yourself, doggy,” she snaps. “I’m doing this for my own entertainment—the moment I decide it bores me, I will be gone.”
“And you, fox?” he asks, accepting this with a nod.
He feels the cautious brush of Ahri’s tail against his forearm.
“I was going to invite you to my room, anyways—if this will get you there faster, so be it,” she says throatily, twining it slightly around him. He shakes her off with a shudder.
They run forwards, holding tightly to his staff, as Garen pulls Lux into the beginning of the Demacian wing.
Chapter 10 Part Two is up! Enjoy!
Edit: Woops, forgot about you Spirit Hacker. Here you go!
And without further ado, part two—the longest chapter yet. I hope you enjoy—and shoot me a review if you can!
Chapter 10: Final Spark
After an undignified, near-fall caused by tripping over one of Ahri’s tails, the three slow to a cautious crawl, creeping along only quickly enough to stay in sight of Lux and Garen. The doors of the Demacian champions loom on each side of the hall, simple wood with each champion’s named inscribed in golden runes on the center. Through the cracks underneath, he sees and hears hints of the personalities of the champions within: hot, smoky forge light under Poppy’s door, the gentle lilt of accented music mixed with the song of clashing steel from Fiora, and the scrape of stone on spear within the Seneschal’s chambers.
Fiora? So, that was the name of that Demacian bladeswoman. Totally incomprehensible. Did she have a speech impediment, he wonders.
Garen is dragging Lux towards a bigger door, more elaborate than those around it, and he can see the gold dragon-prince waiting outside. The man’s face is narrow and hostile when it falls on the Lady of Luminosity and he feels a great surge of worry. At his side is the dragon-woman herself, grinding her teeth together, hot fire dripping from her fingers in little flashes and spurts. Behind them, standing so still that Nasus almost mistakes him for part of the wall, is a statue with eyes, peering watchfully down the hallway.
“Damn it,” Evelynn hisses. “It’s Galio. He’s the perfect guard—his eyes can pierce through any deception. We can’t get any closer.”
“I can take care of him,” Ahri says confidently. “Just wait until the others go inside, and let me do my work.”
“It’s a tekepi,” he growls, perplexed. “Tekepi have no emotions, little fox.”
“No one can resist me, Curator,” she purrs. “Man, woman, child, or beast—the power of my charm is greater than them all.”
“I can,” he says simply, feeling her tails brush against his wrist again. “I am beyond such things.”
The fox-woman huffs an angry puff of air. “That may be true,” she says snippily, “but you’re not so hard-hearted as you think you are.”
“I am a protector,” he says, feeling the words as they resonate in the magically-silenced air. “Even you are not beyond protection, but the guardian must be free from all imperfection, lest an opening appear in his guard—and what I guarded on my homeworld was more dangerous than anything your planet has ever experienced. Never did I falter—even against the flesh of my flesh.”
“He’s pretty stupid, isn’t he?” the fox-woman asks Evelynn, and he feels the flush of pride and duty in his chest evaporate.
“Yup,” the demon agrees, “the self-righteous ones usually are. Listen, Curator, yes, you’re noble, but as you may not have noticed, those Demacians are starting to move.”
Nasus feels almost sulky as he strains his ears towards the conversation at the end of the hall.
“Good, you brought her,” the dragon-woman hisses, leaning eagerly towards Lux, whose blonde head is drooping. “I’m ready to burn.”
“No, none of that,” the prince says, placing a comforting hand on her grey-blue arm. “Not yet, at least,” he adds, directing a hard glare at the Lady of Luminosity.
He snarls in his own mind, some of the darker scrolls in his library leaping to his thoughts—spells of quicksand and tearing winds. They will not hurt her.
“I volunteered for a match against Noxus,” Lux says bitterly, “what’s so wrong with that?”
“You know you should not do such a thing,” Garen says sternly, looking down on her. “I see how it pains you whenever you aid another city-state.”
“Who knows what could have been happening to those prisoners!” she shouts and in a moment there is a huge, searing flash of light. Nasus tries to leap into action, but the infinitely faster Evelynn tackles him into the wall.
“No!” she hisses. “Wait until the last moment to break our cover!”
“I am no spy,” he grunts, but stills, letting the cool stone calm him as he blinks the spots from his eyes.
“Get your hands off me,” Lux hisses, now standing with her baton shoved into Garen’s throat, the ends shining dangerously. The dragon-woman is snarling, rubbing her eyes and shaking her head, and the prince’s brow is furrowed.
Brave, he thinks.
Slowly, the big male releases her arm, and she takes a step back.
“I’ll listen, my lord, but I’m no criminal, nor a traitor,” she says. “I’m an honored agent of the intelligence services, I’ve served loyally for years, I’ve helped Demacia in the League, and I don’t deserve to be dragged through the halls like a prisoner going to interrogation!”
“You don’t want to be part of my lord’s plans,” the dragon-woman hisses at her. “I can smell your fear, your distaste. You don’t want to do what must be done for the glory of Demacia.”
“I’m not a slave, or a little girl,” she retorts. “I’m a Champion. And I will make my own choices.”
“You will enter this room and listen to what I have to say, and if I want you to help us, you will do so,” the prince says, and his voice reverberates with certainty. “Your mind is bound to the Measured Tread and you will obey me!”
"Victory for our allies, defeat for our enemies, and justice for all," Lux whispers, her little face pinched in pain, and her shoulders droop. “Yes, my lord. I will hear you.”
"Let’s go, then. Who knows how safe the Institute is anymore,” the dragon-woman hisses
“Indeed,” Garen says, looking over his shoulder. Nasus freezes, holding his breath, and he realizes that he hears Evelynn laughing ever so softly.
“Oh, down what merry paths shall this lead me!” she chuckles. “And oh, shall I drink in the suffering of these hard-minded fools!”
Ahri’s teeth grind together. “I do not like the way they are treating her.”
“You?” Nasus asks, confused at the way the fox-woman’s tails are twitching.
“She’s a friend, and I have few friends,” she says shortly. “Miss Eyowyn introduced me to her when I first came to this place and she was kind to me.”
“Do you still want to pursue this?” Evelynn asks, pricking him with her sharp claws. He watches Lux walk through the door, and closes his eyes as Garen shuts it behind the Demacians.
“Fear is the invention of mortals,” he growls. “My duty is sacred. I may be without my library, but I still have charges to care for.”
He thinks Ahri sighs, “You can read me like one of your books any time,” but dismisses it as being totally implausible.
The moment the door clicks closed, the two women launch into action. He grips tightly to his staff as Evelynn pulls him behind a pillar and pushes him into the shadows. With a flash of spirit energy, Ahri lets go of the staff and appears, with a burst of blue fire, in front of Galio.
“Nine-Tailed Fox, you must leave this area at once,” he says in his slow, stone voice. His heavy wings unfold with a great grinding of rock.
“I think not,” she says, leaning forwards, and he notices with surprise that it seems that there has been some injury to her clothing.
She looks rather…squishy. It’s a little repulsive. Politely, he tries to control the grimace on his face.
“Oh,” Galio sighs, and the sigh is oddly breathless for a noise that sounds like two rocks crunching together.
“Ugh,” Evelynn hisses, “she better keep all that love magic on that side of the hall. I don’t want to end up randomly groping you while I’ve got Demacians to eavesdrop on.”
“Oh dear,” he says, rather shocked. “That would not be appropriate.”
“Don’t want you getting all big and hard too quick,” she says with a wicked chuckle, “got to save that for the team fights, you know.”
He chokes a little in the corner.
“Oh, relax,” she mutters. “You have no sense of humor!”
He attempts to ignore her snickering, but watching Ahri lean forwards and place her pale hand on the gargoyle’s stone cheek is almost as bad. Galio leans forwards, the light in his eyes dimming slightly.
“I—a guardian is always prepared,” he says slowly. “Nine-Tailed Fox, my post—“
“Forget it,” she whispers silkily.
“By your command,” he rumbles, and his clawed hands close gently around her back as Ahri leans in and kisses his stone mouth, presses herself against him as if he is a wellspring in the desert, and…
Covers his eyes with her hands.
“Go!” Evelynn hisses, and they run towards the door. Nasus spares Ahri a glance as they run by, gagging a little as her tails twine themselves around the gargoyle’s body.
He wonders if he should be ashamed in using this woman in such a way, but he notices little wisps of essence drifting from Galio and into the orb hovering behind her head and decides that she’s really not making that much of a sacrifice.
As they reach the door Evelynn shoves her claws into the lock, and with a surge of magic it pops open. The little click it makes is expertly masked by the fox-woman’s gasp of pleasure (which makes him want to cover his face and hide) and the demon quickly presses her ear against it.
“They’re in another room,” she hisses, and eases it open with her shoulder. “Ahri!” she calls in a strained whisper. “We’re done here, let’s go!”
In an instant the fox-woman draws back and cracks Galio across the face with a glowing fist. Before his jaw can finish falling open in shock, she flashes to their side in blue flame, disappears as she desperately flails around and manages to grab the invisible staff, and they hurry inside as the door slams shut.
Galio, totally blindsided, rubs his jaw and looks around.
“What just happened?” he asks of no one in particular.
No one in particular remains unsympathetically silent.
The dragon-prince’s room is rich in dark wood and great tapestries in bright colors of red and gold. There is an air of luxury about it, a heavy smell of arrogance, which makes Nasus grind his teeth together.
“Where are they?” he barks, trying desperately to forget what he just saw the woman at now panting at his side do.
“In there,” Evelynn murmurs, gesturing down a brief hallway. After a brief period of fumbling around with the staff, they managed to reach end of this corridor, which opens into a large hall with a firepit in the center. The dragon-woman is lounging on top of the coals, watching Lux with hateful, jealous eyes.
His nek’asha’mei is kneeling before a throne set by the coals, in front of her brother. Her hands are clenched, white knuckled, around her baton.
“Shyvanna and Jarvan, what an odd couple,” Ahri says under her breath.
“This coming from a woman that just licked the face of a statue,” Nasus grumbles.
“We all have our preferences,” Evelynn says diplomatically. “Shush.”
“As I informed you earlier,” the dragon-prince begins, “progress into finding the proper site for the portal is going extremely well. Our contact assures us that he has found the precise location in the ruins and that he is beginning to re-awaken the old spell his people used to flee to our world.”
“It must have been thousands of years ago—even before the first Rune Wars,” Garen says solemnly. “How can we trust that it can be reactivated?”
“I don’t trust him,” Shyvanna hisses. “He wants the Library for himself. You know he does, my lord.”
“I honor my pledges,” the dragon-prince says sternly. “If he does not betray us, he will have the spells that he desires.”
He can barely breathe. The Library. A portal. Do they…can they mean…
“In any case,” Jarvan continues, “he needs either the Curator’s staff or the Butcher’s glaive to fully open it. That is where you come in, Miss Crownguard.”
Blind fury, so hot and thick he can taste it like blood, rising up in his mouth, fills him to the brim. Human scum, worthless, pathetic mortals, who he gave so much of his life to guard, and still he could not find even one who could be trusted. He thought she was different…
“I won’t do it,” she spits, and she looks up, right at where he is standing, and he cannot look away from her eyes.
Blue like the desert sky.
“I know it will be difficult,” Garen murmurs encouragingly, “but you’re the best of the best, my sister.”
“The crown understands that it will take great time and effort to accomplish, Miss Crownguard,” Jarvan tells her, “but it will be done. You have two months, and I will accept no excuses.”
Her eyes shine with liquid, and for a moment he thinks of how wasteful it is that tears are. A brief flash of desert-born contempt, then it is submerged below the emotions burning, tossing and turning, inside him.
“As you command, my lord,” she says hoarsely, and the dragon-prince gives a triumphant smile.
“Very good, Miss Crownguard. I will forget today’s lapse in discipline—see that it does not happen again. And no more helping the Ionians—we want them and Noxus to be as close to each other’s throats as possible while Demacia devotes herself to this task. When we have the Library, then there will be no need to let that island stay independent any longer,” Jarvan says. “You are dismissed.”
He can hear Evelynn and Ahri on either side of him, barely breathing, as Lux and Garen bow their heads and exit the room.
“So much pain,” Evelynn purrs joyously, “oh, that feels good.”
“Lux,” Ahri murmurs, and he hears real sorrow in the fox-woman’s voice.
“We must leave this place,” he growls, “before I kill this man before me, and damn all consequences.”
He watches the dragon-prince reach out a hand to his lover amidst the flames as Evelynn takes them quickly, quietly out, and he understands his brother’s urge to kill.
Ahri flings a handful of foxfires out the door, and while Galio scrambles to put them out they run out of his sight, down the rest of the Demacian corridor and back into the main hall of the Institute, where Evelynn finally drops her stealth spell.
“That was exhausting,” she moans.
“Thank you,” he tells her, and he gently touches her blue cheek. The demon’s eyes go wide with surprise as he moves his hand down and pats her spiky shoulder.
“Well…I…” she stammers, and winks back out of sight as soon as Nasus draws his hand back, smiling a little.
“What, I don’t get anything?” Ahri complains, flouncing. He wrinkles his nose at all the flopping her chest is doing, but there is a real sense of gratitude inside him towards these two monstrous females.
“You have been a great help to me, Ahri,” he murmurs, “and I thank you as well. Your aid was most…unexpected.”
“You’ll need more of it before long,” she says, her fox eyes narrowing. “I don’t like the sound of what they’re planning.”
“Then I will call on you the day after the ball, Lady Nine Tails,” he says gravely, “and Miss Evelynn as well, if she will come.”
She nods sharply, her orb spinning around her, and raises a hand in farewell before she moves off across the hall, her face softening into a beguiling smile the moment she turns. He smiles after her, but then his face goes hard.
Out of the corner of his eye, he notices a flash of gold and feels a heavy weight settle over him as Lux saunters into view, grinning brilliantly as usual—startlingly than he had seen her only moments before.
“Lux,” he calls, reaching her in a few strides. She looks up at him, those tiny white teeth shining, and he hesitates.
“Would you like to accompany me to the Champion’s Ball?” he asks.
Her eyes widen and he shifts uncomfortably.
“Yes, I would,” she says quietly, a little of the blood returning to her pale cheeks. Without thinking, as he should have, he reaches out and touches them with a single finger, feeling the warmth of her blood under her skin as she stiffens in surprise.
“Good. We have much to talk about,” he says quietly, and leaves her without another word.
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