Fwee! New chapter, and you even uploaded it here for me! Thank you!
Oh, Ahri. Always looking for *cough* trouble. Charm op I guess (and if it can affect Galio like that, I wonder how long it'll take until Nasus cracks?)
J4 is a scumbag. >_> I wonder who his contact is, and exactly how Demacia got mixed up in this much funny business. Looks like he's got Garen and Lux pretty well under his thumb though, so maybe J4 is the only Demacian looking for trouble and he's just brainwashed/forced everyone else into going along with it?
Anyway, fascinating read. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next!
I played Shyv a couple of times this week and you are right, Waffle…she is a bit of a wild child. Still, I’m going to go with evil!Shyv and blame it on her now fanatical devotion to the man who saved her.
J4, man, you so bad.
Anyways, here’s the final chapter of Part 1. This one’s coming in at right around 4000 words, the longest yet. I wonder if it is just that as I keep writing this story, I enjoy it more and more and just want to keep writing it!
There be romance ahead…romance so far from even being T rated that it’s laughable.
BUT I LOVE IT ANYWAYS!
Read and review, my dear ones!
Chapter 11: The Fury of the Sands
It is a long, anxious wait for the Champion’s Ball. He fights in several more matches as the days pass, and there is an incredibly unpleasant one where Shyvanna is the jungler for his team.
He does not understand her.
She seems too savage, too wild for the straight-laced Demacians, but there is a fire in her brighter than that which comes from her hands for her lord, the golden dragon-prince. What was his name? Jarvan?
He bares his teeth in a silent snarl. Yes, Jarvan. He will remember him.
“Curator Nas-us-are you confused? Should-the Proph-et-and I-explain it-to you-again?”
He shakes his head and turns back to the little dancing tekepi who is smiling up at him to joyfully. Her bronze hair is curled into sharp, perfect points, and she covers her plated metal skin with spinning gears at her waist. He doesn’t…exactly see what Malzahar likes about her, and even this is an understatement. However, she seems kind enough, a tekepi made in the shape of a sweet young female human, as he is told. A pity that she is not alive, he thinks, looking at her hopping from one delicate foot to another, her arms twisting the great key behind her back. She is more decent than most humans that he is met.
“No, thank you Orianna,” he says politely, wincing a little as the ball zooms around his body, adjusting the clothes the tekepi has selected for him with brief blasts of electricity. He would turn his body to stone, but he somehow doubts that it would stop the relentlessly chirping metal sphere.
Malzahar tilts his cowled head curiously as Orianna bounces around him, her wickedly sharp fingers snipping thread and sewing it back up in seconds.
“Ver-y good!” she sings, stepping back and cocking her mechanical head from side to side to examine him. “You-look-most-lovely-Curator Nas-us!”
“I trust your judgment, Clockwork Lady,” he says, and she claps her hands together joyfully. The ball gives him a friendly nudge.
“You are-so kind-to-me and the Ball,” she says, “the Ball-shall not-cook the flesh from your-bones!”
Malzahar chuckles, a deep, haunting sound, as Nasus, rather alarmed, snatches his staff out of the Deserts Between.
“That was-a joke,” Orianna says, smiling at Malzahar. “See-the-Proph-et understands? Curator Nas-us does not-have-his-refined-sense-of-humor.”
He growls softly and dismisses his staff. This is a strange creature.
“Here-Ball-will-show-you-how-you-look,” she says, and waves her long mechanical fingers at her companion. The ball whirrs and darts in front of Nasus, its metal plates contorting until they form a large rectangle, in which he can see his reflection.
The tekepi has dressed him in clothes of Shurima silk, tan-gold with hints of oasis blue and palm green. His skirt is composed of two bright triangles of gold with red edges, and a sigil in sapphire blue in the center that he described for Orianna to sew, a fantastic letter of lines and curves that in Nasus’ language was a symbol of his goddess, Registrana. He wears a tunic with a triangle of brilliant blue fabric just under his throat. The rest is gold, and he wears the belt from his armor with it. It blends in nicely with the cloth, and with a thought he can summon the rest of his armor to join with it and cover him in protective enchantments. The great emerald in its center carries powerful wards against poison and magics of the mind, which should be enough to carry him safely through the night.
He leaves his head and hands bare of helmet or gauntlets, though he retains a gold circlet with another emerald that rests on his forehead—another precaution against beguiling spells.
He provided the tekepi with the pieces of his own armor, but the rest she had somehow managed to conjure up—and sew—within the morning. He had brushed his fur and let the cleansing mist out of its glass as she was working, and he thinks, looking into the mirror, that he looks fine enough for this human contrivance of a ball.
Dressing up for a ball with the help of the Ball. Is that what humans call a pun?
He shrugs and gestures for the Ball to return to its normal shape. “Thank you, Orianna,” he says graciously, “I look very suitable.”
“Oh-it-was-our-pleasure-to-help-you-isn’t-that-right-Ball?” she chirps joyfully, her skirt of gears whizzing around her body. The ball bobs in mid air, nudging her affectionately.
“Orianna,” he says carefully, feeling a great pity come over him for the mechanical…girl, “do you have a home city?”
“Yes-our-home-is-in-Piltover-isn’t-it-Ball?” she says, nodding in excitement. Malzahar, who has been watching her with a slightly dreamy expression in his soulless eyes, shifts within his robes so he is looking at Nasus. A voidling, peeping out of his hood, strains to lean out far enough to see and loses its grip, splattering on the floor in a puddle of purple goo.
“There is a chance that…something very bad could happen to your city, Clockwork Lady,” he says sternly. “I would hate for such a thing to happen.”
“We-wouldn’t-let-anyone-do-that!” she snaps, and suddenly her voice goes cold. “Attack-ravage-pulse. I-know-what-makes-them-tick- I-know-how-to-make-the-ticking-STOP.”
“These invaders would use weapons from which this world has no defense,” he warns her, occasionally glancing at Malzahar. The Prophet’s hood is crowded with curious voidlings, little multi-eyed heads popping out on every side.
One of them crawls out of his sleeve, hissing in excitement at its own creativity.
“They could even destroy an invasion from the Void,” he says, baring his teeth at the Prophet.
“I’m listening,” Malzahar replies sourly.
“Tomorrow, come to the chambers of the Nine-Tailed Fox,” he says. “I do not want to see these weapons given to the people of Runeterra to use as they see fit, Clockwork Lady. Such a thing would bring destruction on this wet world.”
“We-go-with-Curator Nas-us,” Orianna says, laying a spidery hand on the ball’s surface. Sparks spit off it in all directions as it spins, suddenly malevolent.
“I am interested to hear more,” Malzahar says, floating up to her and wrapping a protective arm around her twitching shoulders.
“I will see you tonight and tomorrow, then,” he says gravely, then raises his hand in farewell. He makes his way out of Orianna’s room, which is a bizarre three way mix between a dance studio, a hextech workshop, and a sewing room, with sharp edges and jagged struts of metal as the primary means of decoration. He steps carefully to avoid getting his new clothes torn.
Outside, in the Piltover wing, he thanks his dark fur that hides his blush when the woman with the giant gauntlets starts hooting like the monkey she resembles upon glimpsing him and starts pointing at him with huge fingers. Her partner, the Sheriff, covers her face with an elegant hand and drags her off.
He did not consider that he would look…ridiculous…to the humans. Is that what Lux will think when she sees him? Will she laugh at him?
He would not like it if she laughed.
He growls, drawing a shroud of sand around him, and strides through the halls cloaked in a furious sandstorm, rushing for the quiet sanctuary of his room.
He ends up pacing anxiously a scant quarter hour before the start of the festivities. He can hear giggling outside his door, the gentle patter of human feet, the soft hum of musicians warming up in the dancing hall. But pounding over all that is his frightened heart.
He dreads the moment he has to tell Lux what he has overheard. He fears the terrible future if the Demacia prince succeeds and the secrets of his Library fall into mortal hands. He cannot think too long about the meeting in the foxwoman’s room—the impossibility of Void and metal, Shadow Isle and Ionia, working together—of all the people he will need, Lux is the only true human being! And what a task they will have before them…
But most of all he waits to see the look on Lux’s face when she first sees him. It should not matter—it does not, he insists to himself—but it causes him more unease when he thinks about it than all the terrible future that awaits him. While he waits for the appointed hour, he summons forth gold and jewels and works it with his magic into a circlet like the one he wears, but smaller, finer—a delicate piece for a tiny creature. Instead of an emerald, though, he places a sapphire in the center, one that is the same color as her lovely eyes.
He holds the piece delicately in his hands and sighs. It is time. He straightens his shoulders and opens the door.
The ballroom is exceptionally strange and incredibly lovely. The entrance hall of the Institute is a dusky whirl of gold and violet, the gentle blue stones covered in great billowing drapes that go from floor to ceiling. The ceiling itself is strew with tiny, sparkling gems that look like stars amidst the dusty shadows of the rafters. A band sits unobtrusively on the rising stairs to the Chamber of Judgment, and the lilting strains of violins and flutes sound almost ethereal.
He pauses at the entrance, watching the couples already inside dance inside the darkness. Orianna spins gracefully beside the Prophet, who watches her with a deep sorrow in his eyes as he catches her hand and dips her. The foxwoman is surrounded by a gaggle of admiring male champions, and he catches Jarvan staring at her before Shyvanna yanks angrily on his arm.
“Nasus?” a bright voice calls, and he turns to see Lux, just coming in the Great Corridor.
She…she—his mind, infinitely adaptable and filled with more knowledge than has passed through Runeterra in centuries, stutters. She is…wearing a dress, a dress the color of sand, that flows gracefully past her knees and over her shoulders. Her long hair is held back by a band of silver, studded with thick chunks of sandstone. A golden sash curls around her body and falls off at her hip, hanging loosely behind her.
He chokes a little and tries blinking, which has become moderately more difficult.
Lux appears…uncannily like he had imagined her, the golden-brown chunks of sandstone peeking through her hair like ears, the sash like a tail, the dress the exact color that it should be. Could she read minds? Wait, of course not, he had wards against that.
She looks exquisitely lovely. He did not think a human could look so beautiful to him, but dressed in this manner, her lovely face is suddenly glaringly obvious. A sweet human, he had thought, attractive perhaps to other humans but to him? No…no!
“Luxanna,” he says softly, bending at the waist in a deep bow.
“I didn’t think you ever got out of your armor,” she quips, walking up to him and looking him up and down with a twinkle in her eye. He takes a deep, deep breath and tries to regain his old calm.
“I could make an exception for a lady,” he growls. “It would be disrespectful otherwise.”
“You look very nice. It’s like your armor, but softer. Not so hard to get at,” she says, glancing once at his belt and once at his forehead. “Mind shielding and poisons?” she inquires, almost absentmindedly.
“There’s a bit of defense against magical and physical attacks in here,” he rumbles, gesturing at the sigil of Registrana on his skirt. She looks, purses her lips as she traces her eyes over the intricate curves, then stops with a jerk and a rush of blood to her cheeks.
It is no mercy that he understands humans enough to understand what he’s done.
“Sorry, sorry!” he says quickly, reaching out to quickly try and tilt her chin back up to his face.
“Looks very nice,” she mumbles, almost as red as the border.
“I—I am impressed by your knowledge of, uh, of magical defenses, Lady Luxanna,” he stammers hastily. He has perfect control over the pressure he exerts with his claws on her skin, so he is surprises by her quiet intake of breath when he gently pushes her head up to look at him.
“I’m very well read,” she says quickly, then gives him one of her breathtaking smiles.
“Not as well as I?” he guesses, and chuckles at her smirk.
“No, maybe not,” she says, pushing her lips out a little, a gesture that leaves him rather worried that her mouth is about to detach from her face. Fortunately, it’s just another facial expression.
“Shall we?” he asks hesitantly, and offers her his hand. She slides her little fingers in with his long ones without any sort of pause, pressing her palm against his furry one. He can feel her energy, bright and dancing under her pale, vulnerable skin, and puts his other hand over hers with a sudden rush of protective feeling, hiding it completely from view.
“I made you something, Lux,” he growls. “I worry for your safety, what with how small you are and your soft human flesh, and this should protect you better than the flimsy metal of Demacian armorers.”
Quickly, he withdraws his hand and plucks the circlet out of the Deserts Between, missing the brief flash of surprised pleasure on her face.
“Here, here,” he mutters hastily, and she looks him in the eye as she takes from his hand and slides it onto her brow, below the sandstone band. She smiles gratefully, a little crinkle at the corners of her eyes, and he can feel her perpetual aura of happiness sharpen perceptibly.
“It’s beautiful, thank you Nasus,” she says, and he reaches up and adjusts it slightly, his claws pressing gently into her skin and tucking away her hair.
“It is nothing,” he growls, his fingers lingering slightly in her hair as he marvels at the strange feeling of the strands brushing against his hand. Then he withdraws, feeling suddenly huge and clumsy compared to her, and she laughs.
“Don’t worry so much,” she says, and tugs him after her into the ballroom. The force she exerts is infinitesimally small compared to the strength in his arms, but it amuses him to let her pull him about in such a way. The music changes to something sweet and slightly wistful as Lux finally reaches an empty spot on the floor.
She reaches up to him, and manages, with a bit of difficulty, to wrap her tiny hands around the back of his neck, where her touch makes his skin tingle unmercifully.
“Wait,” he says, waving his hands about frantically, “what do I do?”
“You have to put your hands on my waist, Nasus,” she says, smirking, “and then we kind of sway back and forth as they play the song.”
“Is this really necessary?” he growls, but after looking at the teasing light in Lux’s eyes, he puts his hands as far above her hips as they can go without going over her arms. She raises an eyebrow and reluctantly he lets them drop an inch or two.
“Poor Curator,” she says. “Didn’t they have anything like this on your world?”
“Well, yes—dance is a universal trait among sentient species, well documented in the Library,” he says, feeling a little better as the conversation moves into more comfortable grounds. “My kind tends to not have organized festivities of this sort. The priestesses of Registrana dance as part of Her ceremonies, and there are certain sects such as the waterfinders and the weather-keepers who practice a sort of martial art that involves dance used to incredibly deadly effect. Those are mostly ones of my kind who have reptile, avian, or feline aspects. The wolf aspect, sometimes called the hound aspect, tends not to be so…frivolous,” he ends with a bit of a sniff.
“Sounds fun,” she says cheerfully. “I like dancing.”
He huffs and glares at her. Once again, missing the point entirely.
“Who’s Registrana?” she asks innocently, batting her eyelashes at him. He finds this action immensely distracting. Those tiny little blond hairs, falling over her eyes like sand cast into the wind…
“Hmm, She is not to spoken of lightly, little human,” he growls, watching her blink and stick her tongue out at him.
“I’m curious!” she protests.
“Well,” he says, shifting his weight from foot to foot as she does, making the little swaying motions she seems to think he should be, “Registrana applauds your curiosity, as She is the patron of all seekers of knowledge, but such things should not be shared in a public place.”
Lux frowns, but nonetheless leans her head against his chest. The very top of her hair touches his chin when he looks down at her.
“Is this also the custom?” he growls.
“It’s nice,” she says simply.
It is, indeed, but that part of him is being terribly confusing at the moment. He wraps his arms a little more snugly around her and closes his eyes for a few seconds. She is small but very soft and he sighs regretfully before he gently pushes on her shoulders to adjust her back to her previous position.
She is not his kind. Charming she may be, intelligent and curious, brave even, but he will not confuse fondness for anything more.
Lux smiles at him, but her eyes are a little sad. He wonders what he has done to hurt her. Surely she must feel the same way?
He pats the top of her head with one of his hands, sliding his claws through her hair down to her shoulder, wondering again at how odd it feels.
“Do not sorrow, nek’asha’mei,” he says quietly, watching the little light appear above her head, conjured by his name for her. “All is well.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Nasus,” she says, her mouth twisting.
“Perhaps I do,” he growls. “Can we dance over to that corner, perhaps? I think a friend would like to help us talk in private.”
He gestures with a tilt of his head at the shadows on the left side of the stairs up to the Judgment Chamber. Within, there is a slight disturbance in the air before he sees Evelynn’s spiked heels emerge from the darkness.
Lux nods, looking slightly puzzled, and they move quietly through the crowd. As they approach the demon, she gives Nasus a knowing nod, and seconds both he and Lux vanish from sight.
“What—“Lux squeaks, and Nasus feels Evelynn’s sharp nails ***** him lightly on the back of his neck as she moves to rejoin the crowd.
“There is nothing to fear,” he growls. “The Widowmaker has put us out of sight and hearing of the others here, so we may talk in private.”
“Talk about what?” she demands without a quiver. Although he can no longer see her, he can certainly feel her hands dart away from his head and the cold head of her baton press against his chest.
“Your lord’s plans for my people and my world,” he snarls, and she abruptly stills as he tightens his hands around her back.
“Ah,” she says sadly, and he flinches as the end of the baton suddenly starts to warm.
“No, my Lady, no need for that,” he says, amused. “I don’t think you are my enemy.”
“Well, what are you dragging me off for, then? Just going to hand your staff over? Because there’s nothing else that’s going to satisfy him, and I’m not going into Renekton’s cell for any amount of pride in my country,” she spits venomously.
“I am here to offer you my help, Lux,” he growls earnestly, feeling cautiously down her arms until he can grasp her hands. “No Demacian will ever set eyes upon the secrets in my Library, nor will your golden dragon-prince be allowed to loose his armies upon the Endless Empire, but you need not suffer for their failure.”
“It won’t just be Demacia,” she whispers grimly. “How long will it take before Talon hears about this? Or the Kinkou? Or Kha’zix, or your apparent bosom-companion Evelynn, may the gods forbid it!”
“ Evelynn is…a strange one,” he rumbles, “but she has aided me and I will keep my trust with her until I know I should keep it elsewhere. For the others, we could stop them all as long as we keep them from opening a portal—and even if that fails, though Registrana turn aside that path, I can return the same way to protect my Library. There are others who I think will help us, for the sake of the balance of power. Trust me, nek’asha’mei.”
“I do trust you, Nasus,” Lux says softly.
“Then the rest will come in time,” he growls, “for am I not the Curator of the Sands?”
He squeezes her hands gently, hoping his claws will not scratch her arms.
“You know the Nine-Tailed Fox closely, do you not?”
“Ahri…yes, I do, although she’s creepy, like I told you in the garden,” Lux replies, sounding slightly puzzled. “What does this have to do with—“
“Come to her chambers tomorrow and see who I have gathered to stop this coming danger,” he growls.
“Do this and you will be safe, for the gift I have given you should protect you from any daggers in the night, if not from poison tongues.”
“Easy enough,” she breathes, “are we done here, then?”
“Yes, Lux,” he says. “Should I escort you back to your room?”
“No,” she murmurs and he blinks. “I think that this time is for dancing, Nasus. I don’t see a lot of it in the future, so why leave early?”
“Wise,” he growls, chuckling slightly and leading her back to the light. As Nasus steps carefully over the pirate-woman, who has crashed to the floor, giggling, his body returns to visibility, as does Lux’s.
“Is the party still on?” he hears Evelynn whisper, soft and close to his ear. He glances around, but sees nothing.
“Yes,” he says, barely moving his mouth, and he hears the demon’s answering chuckle.
“Good. I’d hate to miss out on all the turmoil,” she teases, then all is quiet.
He turns to look at Lux, at her beautiful eyes and her priestess’ dress and tail-like sash and sandstone crown, and prays that she will be safe, this last worthy female on Runeterra.
Though, he supposes such a title is unkind, considering gentle Karma and the other Ionians. Well then, the only decent female who has shared his lane in a League match.
Suddenly, he remembers Malzahar’s book and smiles.
“Shall we dance, my lovely Lux?” he growls, and slips his arms back around her as she blushes and hides her face with her golden hair.
END OF PART 1: THE INSTITUTE
This chapter is dedicated to my beloved Penguin, and the dance we'll have next year.
Marvelous work, no less. To be frank, I consider you, kind sir, to be one of the best ff writers out there, and I really look forward to seeing more of this story. I mean, the areas and events you describe feel alive, the flow of the story is fluid, absorbing, leaving reader craving for more, and most importantly, the character development feels so real and natural that I would gladly see this carved into official lore. As of the plot, it has it all, the stage is set for whatever you're, well, plotting, we have a romance, an intrigue, well placed hilarities, a-hole Demacians and a sparkling villain... And Karma! Its always nice to see her getting some love.
Just can't wait 'till new chapters come up to see if my predictions/hopes at least partially come true (e.g. seeing the brothers united against mutual enemy would be just too awesome)... Sigh. This is the moment where I hate myself for wild imagination coupled with somewhat lacking literacy skills. Readings like this really make people wish they could try it themselves. Hell, I think I'll give it a shot, nevermind how disastrous can this turn out.
And yeah, this awkward moment when my comment becomes a wall of text.
TL;DR: Keep up the good work and keep us updated on progress!
Bonus Chapter: T’sa’s Champion Concept
T’sa, the High Priestess of Registrana
Anti-mage AP carry, Anti-mage support
Passive: Cloak of Feathers
T’sa’s feathers protect her from injury from rival priestesses, reflecting 10/12/14/16/18/20% of all magic damage that she takes (this adds to the percentage of magic damage reduced by magic resistance).
Sacred Talons: T’sa claws at her enemies with divine energy, shooting a pair of mystical talons in the direction of the cursor. These talons have their cooldown reduced and do extra damage to enemies in the area of effect of Quicksand and those who are Drenched.
Oasis of Life: T’sa drenches herself and her surroundings in the waters of the Oasis of Life, removing one debuff from all of her allies in the area of effect, as well as from herself. The waters linger on T’sa, healing her for a scaling amount dependent on her AP over several seconds. Higher ranks heal the amount over a shorter period of time. All enemy champions in the area of effect gain the Drenched debuff for 3 seconds, making them take extra damage from Sacred Talons.
Quicksand: T’sa calls upon the sands of the Deserts Between, changing the earth into a quicksand pit that pulls champions caught in it towards the center over 2 seconds and interrupting spells with cast times. If at the end of the spell the champion is still in the area of effect the pit collapses, forcing the champion into the center of the effect, stunning them for .5 seconds, and dealing damage scaling off of T’sa’s AP.
Registrana’s Mercy: T’sa commends her enemies to the mercy of her goddess, dealing high scaling magic damage over 10 seconds to all enemies caught in the area of effect as their bodies are turned into sand, slightly reducing their physical damage done as well as their armor. Should more than two enemies be in the area of effect, Registrana unleashes her wrath against the non-believers, causing the spell to further decrease physical damage done and armor as well as applying a 10%/20%/30% slow and dealing additional damage equal to 1%/2%/3% of their maximum health every second.
Physical Appearance: T’sa is a large, raven-headed humanoid like Nasus and Renekton. Her feathers are light blue on her face, darkening as they go down her body, and she wears a breastplate of black metal outlined with diamonds and with sigils drawn on it in sapphires, as well as a skirt of dark cloth. She wears black metal sandals that show her talons, and a veil with tiny diamonds in it over her head and beak from a golden circlet on her head in the form of a king cobra. She wears bracers and greaves of the same black metal as her breastplate, and the talons on her hands extend from black silk gloves. T’sa throws steel feathers as her basic attack. Upon death, she cries out and extends her hands towards the sky, then dissolves into sand.
T’sa is one of the race of animalistic creatures that Renekton and Nasus belong to, and was close to both brothers in their time on that world. She leads the temple to Registrana, the Cobra Goddess that is the head of those creatures’ pantheon. Once, eons ago, she was the tentative mate of ever-cautious Nasus, but he gave her up to become the Curator of the Great Library that contains all the knowledge of his world. In the time since then, she has risen through the ranks of the priesthood to become the High Priestess of Registrana, a position heralded beyond all others…and fraught with peril.
After surviving multiple assassination attempts, T’sa attempted to contact Nasus to ask for his protection, but found, to her horror, that the Curator was missing…as was his brother, Renekton. Praying alone to her goddess, she was granted a vision of a land torn by war and by destructive magics—the land of Runeterra. There, the goddess promised, she would find Nasus and Renekton, but this time, it would be they who needed her protection.
The next day, T’sa donned the ceremonial armor in Registrana’s inner shrine and appointed her second to hold her position until she returned. She used her divine magic to break through the wards of the Library and find a spell that would take her to another world. When she activated it she found herself in the ruins of a great city in the midst of an endless desert where she could no longer hear the comforting hiss of her goddess. Determined nonetheless, she set out to cross the Shurima desert to find the two brothers and bring them back to where they belonged.
Upon arrival at the Institute, T’sa greeted the humans there peaceably, seeing them as the same as the subservient race of humans on her homeworld. However, upon being shown the imprisoned Renekton, she flew into a rage and attempted to free him, killing all those around her with her talons. Only Nasus was able to approach her and calm her, and once he had explained the situation, T’sa agreed to stay and join the League. Ostensibly, this was because of her desire to protect the people of Runeterra, like Nasus. However, T’sa had made a deeper pact with the Summoners. They were to find her a way back to her world, and when they did, to send both Nasus and Renekton back with her. For despite all that she has seen since then of the Butcher of the Sands, she cannot think of him as an enemy, and desires above all else to save him from his captivity.
“There is no fury like that of a woman scorned. That applies to the females of my kind, as well.”
-Nasus, Curator of the Sands
Upon Selection: I will return, mortal. Until then…our enemies shall feel the fury of the Goddess.
PART TWO: THE DESERT
The scales of Great Serpent rasp as she coils, her long tongue flicking past her slender lips, around T’sa’s feet.
“Hear me, priestessss,” she croons, resting her heavy head on the raven woman’s shoulder. T’sa takes deep breaths, her dark eyes twinkling behind her veil.
“Registrana, I hear you,” the priestess says softly.
“The vault—sssomeone has tressspasssed on your watch!” she hisses violently, her heavy fangs snapping down by T’sa’s ear. She flinches slightly but calms as she feels the lapis rush through her bones, steadying her against further shock. It is a steady cold inside her flesh and feathers.
“Infinite mistress, this is not possible,” T’sa chirps firmly. “No human would be able to pass the priestess-guards, and even great Nasus”—this she says with a slight draw of breath—“could not penetrate the powers of your wards.”
“Truth,” Registrana snarls, her coils tightening around T’sa’s chest, crushing her, even as the lapis reacts and strengthen her ribs to keep them from breaking, “if the intruder was from thisss world.”
“It’s not possible,” T’sa gasps, choking in horror. “Mistress—“
“Do you doubt me yet, High Priessstesss!” she roars, “Awaken and protect my weapon!”
She jerks forwards as the trance breaks, the incense censors shattering as her lapis-infused talons hook on their chains. Her beak smashes into the goddess’s shrine itself, though its sharp edge cannot mar the celestial gold.
“Vulture’s rotting wings!” she squawks, blasting the cinders away with a gust of desert wind, and staggers to her feet. A thought summons cold water to splash over her face, instantly clearing her lingering pain and bringing her mind to razor focus.
“The vault,” T’sa murmurs, spinning on her claws with a nod at her frightened assistant, kneeling in the back of the prayer room, to clean up the mess. She raises her hand and her veil and armor appear with the slightest hiss over her robes. With a grimace, she yanks a feather from her wrist and watches with satisfaction as it shimmers and turns into solid lapis lazuli, sharp and deadly.
“This won’t take long, Initiate,” she chirps, brushing past the hyena-form woman and sweeps out of the prayer room.
The room itself is a large rectangular structure with sturdy sandstone walls and golden pillars, the floor composed of smoothly raked sand. A statue of Registrana, coiled around herself with her ruby eyes staring calmly down on supplicants, dominates the back wall. From her open mouth, now-severed chains attached to her golden fangs support a bowl of incense. For the ritual trance, only burning snake scales would do, although mixed in with as many herbs as T’sa could add to dampen the horrible smell. It is open to the rest of the temple, as it is more magic than incense that T’sa needs to reach out to contact Registrana, so if some of the smoke is lost…well, at least she doesn’t have to suffer alone. The corridors leading to it are sandstone, sand, and gold again, until the main worship hall, which has mosaics in lapis and emerald tile. The vault is another matter.
T’sa stops at a seemingly random spot on the wall and crouches. She plunges her talons deep into the sand, until they can go no further. Slowly, as she concentrates, she sees white light blazing through the half meter of sand that separates her from her talons.
“Go forth!” she caws, and with a jerk she feels her spirit talons catch on the pull ring hidden deep under the temple. She yanks her arms out of the sand with a grunt, and her spirit talons mimic her actions. The wall in front of her slides open.
In it, a tiny chamber half the size of her private prayer room, there is a male. And a human, no less, though his scent burns her nostrils. He stinks of death and black magic, and wears a twisted armor of tentacles and horns that seems almost organic. A long violet blade extends from one arm, and what flesh she can see is the same blue as the lips of those that have died under the sand.
He is forcing the violet blade into a sphere of blazing gold that pulses so brightly T’sa cannot imagine how his eyes have not been seared from their sockets. Only her veil protects her from the light, and lets her see inside to the slim dagger lying on a pedestal, its hilt a brilliant golden snake with red eyes, the blade a sickly poison green—Registrana’s fang.
“Heretic—turn and face me!” she screeches, and throws the feather with all her might as she pours energy back into her claws. It explodes into crystalline shards on his armor, and the figure turns to look at her, still calmly forcing his blade through the shield.
“YOUR MAGIC IS POWERLESS AGAINST ME,” the creature intones, and T’sa screams at the sound of its voice. It is everything that is wrong and unnatural—but terribly, strangely sad.
With a flash, the shield flickers and dies and the priestess shoots her sacred talons at him. They rake across his armor, tearing lines of desert fire into his exposed flesh, and T’sa stamps her foot, changing the stone of the vault beneath him into quagmire of sand. The man chuckles grimly even as the weight of his armor pulls him down to his kneecaps into the sand.
“Sink into the sand’s embrace!” she cries, then clutches her throat as he points at her and a ball of searing, violet magic slams into her veil. The fabric protects her eyes and her feathers cast the magic back at him, making him hiss in surprise as the energy splatters against his skin, but she feels a searing pain in the flesh of her neck, and even when she opens her beak, no noise comes out.
She reaches for the cleansing water of the oasis, pleading for Registrana’s help, but her connection to her magic has been cleanly severed. It is quickly recovering, and she can almost hear the goddess’ furious hisses, but for the moment, she can do nothing but brandish her talons.
The sand smashes back into solidity around the man’s legs, and there is a horrible crunch of shattering bone and splitting muscle. He falters for a moment as he is reaching for the dagger, and T’sa expects him to topple. But instead he floats upwards from the floor, spitting, crackling violet energy streaming from his torso and reforming into his ragged skirt, under which she can see no sign of human feet.
“YOU ARE NULL AND VOID,” he says flatly, and scoops the dagger up from its resting place. T’sa leaps for him, her talons reaching for his throat, and just as they touch flesh he vanishes with the boom of inrushing air.
“No!” she shrieks as she falls against the pedestal, the heavy stone slamming into her breastplate. Liquid tears, precious water, stain the feathers under her eyes.
The last of the three artifacts—the legendary weapons of the Curator, the Library Gatekeeper, and the High Priestess of Registrana—is gone.
The raven woman bows her head and sinks to her knees before the pedestal. Without another word, she begins to pray.
“I HAVE IT,” the man announces as he appears in a darkened room, high in a palace above a black city. “WHERE IS SHE?” He clutches his side, where the claw marks remain. He must rest soon, but for his daughter, he will hold out a little longer.
“You are certain that it will work as a portal key?” the woman demands, tossing a dagger idly as she slumps deeper into the armchair. The old man, leaning heavily on his staff, smiles.
“Now, the Voidwalker would not get us a substandard artifact,” he murmurs. “After all, he knows what is at stake.”
“YOUR CURSED CHARMS ARE ENOUGH TO KEEP ME FROM TAKING HER FROM YOU, SO I HAVE DONE AS YOU ASKED. GIVE HER TO ME!”
“You mean your daughter?” the old man asks, snapping his fingers. A little girl, with wide eyes and hair the color of sand, creeps out of the darkness and looks up fearfully at the huge Voidwalker.
“SWEET ONE,” the man murmurs, dropping the dagger to clatter on the floor as he sinks to his knees. “WHAT BARGAINS YOU MADE WITH THE VOID TO RESCUE HER, I DO NOT CARE TO KNOW.”
“My pleasure,” the woman says, smirking. The man tilts his horned head, puzzled. The girl pokes her head out around the old man’s cane and he forgets everything. He reaches out a gauntleted hand to the little girl, his heart swelling with feelings he thought cauterized.
“Go to him,” the old man says softly, and with a squeal, she runs to the man, who opens up his arms to catch her—
“Surprised to see me?”
Katarina reaches down and picks up the dagger, examining the heft. It molds instantly to fit her hand—it’s a little too long and heavy for her, but shrinks and lightens within seconds.
“Excellent,” she says briskly.
“I’ll send word to our contact,” Swain says, sighing heavily. “The Demacians aren’t stupid enough to say anything about who they are using to create the portal or how they will do it in the Institute, and more’s the pity. This is all Talon’s been able to find out—a weapon of those beast-men’s people is required to open the portal.”
“It’s one thing we have that they don’t, and all their knowledge is useless without the key,” Katarina snaps. “Don’t be so pessimistic.”
“Don’t let me catching you use that on the Fields,” he says sternly, and Katarina laughs and winks at him.
“Don’t you worry about me, Tactician,” she says sweetly.
“Hmph. Someone, get that thing out of here,” he calls as he walks to the door, leaning heavily on his cane, “and sent it to Zaun. Singed should be able to take care of any lingering…ill feelings.”
Katarina smiles, and slips Registana’s Fang into her boot.
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