The Only Truth (Garen/Katarina)

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kittytoast

Senior Member

12-31-2012

*Part One on Pg. 15*

The Paths We Tread: Part Two

***

Riven lay on her bed, arms stretched over her head holding a list of Champions Nasus had given her to recruit. It wasn't a very long list, but the Exile was relatively new to the League and wasn't sure with whom she should even start with, especially with her background; at least she wouldn't have to speak with any Ionians.

As she pondered the paper, a chill suddenly traveled down her spine, raising the hairs on her neck as though she were being watched. In a fluid motion she rolled over to reach for her broken sword which rested on the floor beside her, but as her fingers touched the comforting wrap of the blade's hilt, a curved blade appeared around her wrist.

"We wish to talk, Riven the Exile," a male voice claimed. "But we will not hesitate to defend ourselves should you attack."

A bead of sweat trickled down her temple as she pulled her hand away and turned to face three masked figures. "You're... you're the Kinkou."

"Correct," the man said. "I am Shen, the Eye of Twilight. These are my associates, Akali, the Fist of Shadow, and Kennen, the Heart of the Tempest." The woman, Akali, sheathed the kama which had been poised to remove Riven's hand, and the third, a yordle, crossed his arms.

"How did you get in here?" Riven questioned. "The door is locked."

Akali, her voice as dark as her presence, replied cryptically, "I am the shadow," causing the Noxian to shiver involuntarily.

Hopping up on the bed where Riven sat and crackling with energy, Kennen added, "We're ninjas. Get used to it."

"This is irrelevant," Shen intoned. "We've heard rumor of a plan to dispose of Vessaria Kolminye, the High Councilor of the Institute of War."

"How-"

"irrelevant," he repeated. "We work to preserve the balance, and the actions of the Institute threaten this balance. We must correct this."

With a frown, the Exile quipped, "Sounds great. Since it's so important, how bout you just sneak in and kill her?"

In a flash, the kama's wickedly sharp blade was at her throat and its owner commanded, "The Eye of Twilight speaks. You will listen."

"It is not so simple, against a Summoner, but the Kinkou must act against Vessaria and her allies regardless of what you and your group decides to do," the blue-clad ninja clarified. "There have been times in the past when even the Kinkou worked together with others to ensure that balance is preserved. This is one of those times."

Riven didn't relax, but the tension coiled in her gut dissipated. "So you want to help us?"

Arms akimbo, Kennen looked up at Akali and muttered, "Was that not clear?" She shrugged.

"It's just, why would you approach me, of all people?" the Noxian queried, a hand running through her loose hair. "Why not any of the others, since you seem to know what's going on and who's involved?"

"We've been watching you and yours!" Kennen chirped.

"You wish to repay Ionia for your transgressions against her people, yes?" Shen asked.

Eyes widening in surprise, Riven mumbled, "Yes..."

The only response to her admission was a short nod by the man. "Ionia will not sit idly by, as many would assume; the Elders are aware of the threats, but there are equally trying matters they must deal handle." His yellow eyes raked over the Noxian's face and it seemed to her that he was peering through her. "When the time arises, at least we the Kinkou will be present. Until then, Riven the Exile."

Her eyes hadn't moved from the three ninja, but even so, they simply blinked out of existence. For a few minutes the soldier sat poised on her bed, unmoving and scarcely breathing as she processed the strange events of the night. The Kinkou had approached her of all people, just to say they wanted to help? A snort of disbelief left her, and finally she collapsed wearily onto her back. All the business of hiding in shadows and giving vague answers and posing even stranger questions was not her style, but no one could deny the efficiency of the Kinkou order.

With a smug smile on her face, Riven fixed her hair, pocketed the list, and once more reached for her broken blade; preserving the balance? Perhaps this way she would finally be able to find her own balance.

***

Garen Crownguard was a difficult man to intimidate, but intimidating with only a smile seemed to be a skill only the DuCouteau's possessed.

The short trip to Kalamanda was filled with bickering between himself and Talon, but the Demacian was not concerned about angering the assassin; his mind was ahead, already focused on meeting the DuCouteau patriarch. If it was the same man from before, he feared he'd already left a terrible impression. Not that impressions mattered, he decided with a frown. The only thing of importance was gathering an army; he would not let himself be cowed.

They'd approached the bar as dusk fell and silence rose in the tense space between he and the assassin, setting them both on edge. Just as they reached the entrance, Talon paused, his unarmed hand resting against the door and simply stated, "This is what I've been working toward for the last year."

For once, the Demacian let himself feel sympathetic for the Noxian. "You've done a lot to make it happen," he admitted. Almost instantly he regretted saying anything as a smug look passed across Talon's face, but he said nothing and merely pushed open the door in response.

The Hasty Hammer was crowded, loud, and smokey, and Marcus DuCouteau was inconspicuous to everyone except for them. He sat at a small table tucked into the far right corner at the side of the bar, staring intently at the door, arms crossed against his chest. There was no hood this time, no pretense of being a stranger at the bar: only a slight man dressed in black with a salt-and-pepper beard and a familiar, daunting smirk.

Garen wanted to run from that smile, so like Katarina's, but he followed Talon's surprisingly even pace through the maze of tables until they stood across from the General. For a moment, none of them said anything, content to size each other up until Talon casually stated, "It's been a long time, General."

"So it has," he replied, his baritone voice slow and smooth, each word deliberate. Gaze flicking toward Garen, he added, "For some of us."

The soldier was dimly aware of his voice choking out, "Nice to officially meet you."

With a chuckle, Marcus said, "Likewise," and, motioning to the two vacant chairs, commanded, "Sit, and tell me where my daughters are."

The Demacian did not feel unlike a child who was about to be reprimanded by a parent, and even Talon shifted uneasily under the older assassin's clever eyes. "Cassiopeia said she didn't want to see you. Too angry."

A short laugh slid from Marcus's lips. "I expected as much from her. And Katarina?"

"She's in the hospital, sir," Talon muttered.

The smirk faded, but Garen did not feel any more at ease, and Talon averted his gaze to the table top. "I see," the General replied thoughtfully. "What happened?"

It was Garen who answered. "She was attacked in her room, by the Urgot, the Headsman's Pride." The graying man's face was impassive, so the Demacian swallowed and pressed on. "I made sure to kill him. She's got some third degree burns, but she's close to walking now."

Marcus leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table and lacing his fingers together under his bearded chin. "Good to hear. As much as I would love to discover where you two were when that happened, we have more pressing matters to discuss." His voice dropped low. "War comes. I would like to be ready."

"You mentioned Swain was going to march against the Institute. Is that true?" Talon asked.

"My informants in the High Command swear it is," Marcus smirked. "He's been calling in favors and threats. But I've managed to keep the lower Noxian houses loyal to me. I'm thinking we will march with Swain as allies, and once LeBlanc is dead, we take him as well."

Eyebrows drawn in a frown, Garen pondered, "Why would Swain fight LeBlanc? I thought they were allies."

"Clearly you're not an ambitious man, or you wouldn't be asking," the General jabbed. "They were for the longest time, since he was a boy, as far as I could tell. But he's not the type to be used by someone else. She helped him into control of Noxus only because she took the bigger prize: Valoran." Another of his short chuckles rumbled in his throat. "Now he wants the same. Worst part is he can make it look justified if no one knows he was working with her to begin with."

"So we fight LeBlanc and Swain," Talon muttered. "Separately. We're going to need a bigger army than we thought." Marcus arched a questioning eyebrow at the two men across the table, so the assassin continued, "We have a small group of Champions that will fight against the Institute and Swain. More will join, I'm sure of it."

Rubbing his gloved hand over the short whiskers on his chin, the Noxian general told them, "Excellent, because ready or not, the battle will come to us."

"Will you be able to tell us before Swain rides out?" Garen asked. If they were able to get the other city-states behind them, they would need an extra day or two to make it to the Institute, especially Freljord and Ionia.

"Sure can," the general said. "I have a Noxian summoner I can send to warn you, a guy by the name of Niko. You mentioned other Champions: Is Demacia coming to help? I imagine both Jarvan's would love any chance to kill some Noxians."

The Demacian stiffly replied, "Yes, but only a few Champions, maybe some soldiers and it's just as much for LeBlanc and Vessaria Kolminye. Demacia is split and she's the one who caused it. We don't know about other city-states yet, but like Talon said, we're trying to win them over."

"More likely than not you won't get any definite backing," Marcus mused.

"We figured as much," Talon snapped, his fingers tapping out his irritation on the wooden table. "But like you said, it doesn't matter how many allies we have or don't have, the battle is coming."

The General cast a disbelieving grin at the younger assassin's display. "I see my daughters have rubbed off on you." Talon's scowl deepened, earning a laugh from his patron that quickly faded into seriousness. "Act as quick as you can. It'll be soon, but there's no telling exactly when. Someone needs to stay at the Institute at all times, to keep an eye on things there. If you need to message me leave it here with the barkeep. My associates are known here and visit frequently and I can't risk giving you my location."

"By the way, why Kalamanda?" Talon probed. "Why this bar?"

An odd, knowing look passed across Marcus's face. "It's the hub for the underground," he said. "Neutral. Didn't you wonder where the tunnel under the prison led to? Before the Institute existed, all roads led to Kalamanda. Two Nexus's, though no one knew it then, a good location, connects the Major city-states. **** for mining though. Really, it's no wonder the Institute took it."

Talon kept a still expression but Garen didn't bother trying to hide his surprise then exasperation. This was where that tunnel led, of all places, and yet, no other place made sense. It would certainly be good to remember, if ever he needed a way into Demacia, but he wondered if all the fighting he'd done in Kalamanda had been for those reasons and not the mines at all. Such a waste of time; at least one good thing had come of it...

Placing his palms against the table, Marcus rose saying, "Well boys, it was a short but necessary meeting and we better be on our separate ways. Walk out with me." Talon sprung to his feet taking his place behind the General, close as a shadow; Garen shuffled awkwardly behind the pair as they walked a short distance from the bar before slowing to a stop.

"You keep watching out for Cassiopeia and Katarina, will you?" the graying man asked, clapping a hand on Talon's back, who nodded solemnly. "Damn right you will, or I'd slit your throat in your sleep," the General grinned.

"Don't be so sure, old man," the hooded assassin taunted. "I'm even faster than the last time we went head to head."

"Is that so?" Marcus snickered. There was a flash of steel, faster than anything Garen had seen in his life, and with a scrape of metal on metal the General's dagger was pressed against his ward's blade. "Very good," he conceded. Another flash, almost imperceptible and a thin line of red blossomed on Talon's cheek and Marcus grinned, "But I'm not so old and slow yet." Talon quickly rubbed his face, dropping his gaze, though a small smile tugged at his lips.

"You!" Katarina's father turned to Garen, pointing his dagger as an extension of his arm. "It's no fault of yours you were born a Demacian, but you seem loyal to my daughter and I can respect that." The tip of dagger was pressed against the soldier's chest now, and though the Noxian was nearly a head shorter than him, Garen felt very small. "Would that I could make all the proper threats, but Kat would have a fit for babying her. So I'll leave it at this: Don't make me kill you."

Pushing aside the blade with more bravado than he truly felt, Garen said, "Wouldn't dream of it."

"Good." Marcus sheathed his blade, and took one last look at the two Champions. "I'll send word when the time comes and pray that plans don't change. Be strong, watch your backs, all that good stuff." Turning on heel, the General silently stepped back the way they'd come, fading into darkness.

***

A week passed, then another, leaving everyone with an unsettled feeling in their guts as they awaited the start of a war that was late in coming. The time in between had been spent recruiting, and most of the Champions responded like the Frost Archer had: Hopeful, but noncommittal. Garen was sent to talk to Piltover's Statesmen, as well as the Sheriff Caitlyn, her new partner Vi, and the Defender, Jayce. Piltover was empathetic as ever, even interested in Jarvan's role in the matter, but the Demacian walked away with no definite answer. However, before he stepped hesitantly inside the rare techmaturgical conveyance which the group of statesmen offered to have take him back to the Institute, the Sheriff's lilting voice bade him to wait. There were no promises from her either, but she made her interest in investigating the Institute of War strongly known, and where she went, her officers would follow. It was encouraging, he felt, but not more so than an actual guarantee of their cooperation.

He and Octavius did have unexpectedly good luck in Bandle City. Free from much of the political web by which the rest of Valoran was constrained, Mayor Dennison Jadefellow wholeheartedly wished to get the bullying summoners out of his city; it was difficult to maintain a sense of community with a bunch of humans running about giving orders. But in fact, the mayor informed them, Demacian Ambassador Poppy had pledged her help to Jarvan IV, and Bandle City was already preparing to fight against the Summoners. Though yordles weren't exactly what Garen had in mind, no one could deny the strength of the yordle Champions employed by the League.

Riven even spoke with several of the League's more mercenary Champions, though none of them had any sum worthwhile to offer for their services. Help from the likes of Sivir or Miss Fortune was dubious at best, though she'd done her best to appeal to whatever bits of moral standard might exist in them. To her surprise, the Widowmaker had approached her with an offer which Riven had declined to talk about, though a soft blush appeared on her cheeks when anyone tried to ask.

But for all the Champions who hinted at their participation, there were more who didn't care about the League and its politics: Those of the Shadow Isles, or related to the Void, Zaun, because of their alliance with Noxus, but mostly unaffiliated Champions who were too concerned with their own agendas to become tangled in political affairs, or simply didn't care. It was enough to dishearten them all, and wonder, when the time came, would their efforts be enough.

***

As quickly as the healer's had worked on her, it had almost been three weeks since she'd stepped foot outside the Infirmary, and it hadn't been without a price; if given their more time, she might have walked away with no visible damage, but time was short and the assassin knew as much. Her legs were marred with uneven spots, pale and shiny, but altogether not as terrible as the Noxian anticipated. She wasn't nearly as vain as her sister, but the looks of sympathy or curiosity she'd received as she passed through the halls were almost enough to drive her pack to her room for pants, no matter how uncomfortable they felt.

Instead, she raised her chin higher and directed her gaze straight ahead until she was in the comforting quiet of one of the League's many training areas, and spent the day stalking the sawdust-filled dummies as quietly as a cat. A delicate whirl and the dummy spilled open, stabbed again from behind a second before the dust reached the ground. Katarina frowned, stretching out her legs once more; she'd expected to be slow, but it was still disconcerting. Normally the wound would have barely split before the assassin was behind them.

Unexpectedly, footsteps approached and the door opened, but she didn't have to look to know who it was; she hid her smile.

"Tired of practicing with straw yet?" Garen asked.

The assassin turned and sent a knife speeding past his face with a casual flick of her wrist. "Shouldn't you be up in the mountains talking to the Rakkor?"

The Demacian plucked the knife from the door behind him and sent it back; she caught it with ease. "It went faster than I thought," he said, drawing his own blade. "Mention 'war' and they're ready to fight."

A short laugh escaped her and she disappeared, only to materialize seemingly out of thin air behind the soldier. He blocked her blade as it swung toward his side and twisted away to dodge its twin. "I'll never understand how you can move like that," he grunted, striking high, low, and mid only to be met by her steel each time.

"It's a secret that will die with me," she snickered as she lunged at him, meaning to launch into a spin that would allow her to throw out a flurry of knives, difficult to block and incredibly deadly. But her legs were weak and her foot rolled, sending the knives clattering to the ground as her hands and knees met the dirt.

In an instant, Garen dropped his sword and knelt beside her. "You're pushing yourself too hard," he murmured, gently guiding her back into a sitting position; Katarina gritted her teeth and let her hair hang in her face, saying nothing. His hands ghosted over her bare legs, searching her knees and ankles for swelling until she winced. "Knew it," he muttered weakly, reaching into the pocket of his vest and handing her a tiny vial of red liquid, which she took with a grumble.

"You don't have to baby me," she mumbled, letting the healing potion mend the torn ligaments in her ankle. "When this war starts, there won't be any place for weakness."

He bit his lip, staring down at her foot that was propped in his lap. "You've only been out of the hospital for a few days. It'd be stupid to wear yourself out completely before a battle." Reaching out to brush the bangs from her face, he added, "It's hardly weak to take care of yourself."

The assassin sighed, but nodded at the truth in his words. She didn't want to admit it, but finally sitting down made her feel exhausted. Instead she changed the subject. "Do you think we're gonna lose?"

He gave her an incredulous stare. "I didn't come all this way to lose."

"It's always a possibility in any battle, isn't it?" she pointed out. "We could die."

A fire sparked in his eyes as he replied, "I'm not going to let that happen." He meant it, but it was more of a commitment to keep her from harm, not necessarily himself; what would be the point of going on without her? "You're going to be just fine."

It was almost an afterthought, though he'd been toying around with the phrase in his head for the past few weeks and it had been lingering dangerously close to the tip of his tongue. He hadn't planned on saying anything else just then, but before he could stop himself, the words tumbled unbidden from his mouth:

"I love you, Katarina."

Her green eyes widened and her cheeks caught fire instantly; his own expression mirrored hers, and his mouth formed a small 'o' as he desperately tried to remember how to breath.

"W-what did you sa-"

A crash separated them as the door bust open revealing Talon followed by a purple-robed summoner with the crest of Noxus blazoned across his chest, both breathless from running.

"It's time," Talon gasped. "Swain marches."


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Theamp4

Senior Member

12-31-2012

I like this chapter a lot.

More Riven, and I'm sure Auron would LOVE to fight *cough* hide in a corner *cough*


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Drakojan

Member

01-01-2013

<3


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Novakiller13

Member

01-01-2013

The suspense ! Great job kitty XD


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Mr Pringles Guy

Junior Member

01-02-2013

Omg! I'm currently reading ch. 9 and couldn't help but notice the clothes garen recieves are the clothes that rugged garen wears, right?


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Drakojan

Member

01-03-2013

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT. I just reread the chapter. How did I miss him saying he loves her? D'aaawwwww... So, they kill Swain, the Noxian Assassin and Exiled Pride of Demacia get married and live happily ever after? I CAN'T WAIT.


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kittytoast

Senior Member

01-03-2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Pringles Guy View Post
Omg! I'm currently reading ch. 9 and couldn't help but notice the clothes garen recieves are the clothes that rugged garen wears, right?
Certainly are! ;D I love some rugged Garen!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drakojan View Post
WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT. I just reread the chapter. How did I miss him saying he loves her? D'aaawwwww... So, they kill Swain, the Noxian Assassin and Exiled Pride of Demacia get married and live happily ever after? I CAN'T WAIT.
LOL Getting ahead of yourself a bit!? XD My lips are sealed :3


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Frost Archer

Senior Member

01-04-2013

Good job Kitty! I just hope you finish it before you get too busy! Your writing gets better every chapter. Must be all of my constructive feedback


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PandaVerge

Junior Member

01-06-2013

Was hoping to see some Ezreal action when Garen went to piltover, but regardless this is an aweeeeeeeeeesome story! Keep it up.


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CakeandBacon

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Oh God he said he loved her (with no response) and the epic battle is about to begin! SUSPENSE MODE ENGAGE!

Anyways, now that I'm done gushing like a dork, I wanted to point out that you seem to keep putting all of my favorite characters in the story. First Kat (my favorite), then Draven, now Shen. Here's hoping that Leona comes with the Rakkor.

Anyways, can't wait.