Hello! MF here.
So, since this story has been getting moderate attention and all good feedback so far, I have decided to continue writing and posting it! I think it will be a 1-2 posts per week sort of deal. All the new material will be posted here to make it one cohesive story.
Anyways. Thanks for the support and let's get ready for some plot twists!!!
"Grandmother, you promised!"
The old woman smiled and looked to the frostbitten windows, the sunlight barely scratching through.
Today would be a day of many stories.
"Yes, I did, dearest." She sat down by the bright eyed child and cupped her cheek in a worn hand. She gave her face a pinch, and the little girl giggled.
"When do you think Daddy and Mommy will be back?"
The old woman paused for a moment, a brief shadow crossing by her face. The fire crackled and it peeled the darkness away, leaving her to smile.
"Soon, I'm sure, dear. Going into town by sled takes many days, and they are going to go see the Queen, remember?"
The little girl's face lit up -- of course she did.
"But, I have a story to tell you, don't I?"
And since they are away, perhaps it's time I tell her. Tell her all of it.
The old woman wet her parched lips and began as the girl squirmed to comfort in her bed.
Inside an ancient building, there are endless clocks ticking. An equally ancient man, if not older, sits on a chair, watching events happen about him that took place eons ago. He looks as if he is part of the furniture piece, so still and pensive.
There is the faintest of flutters behind him, and the sound of a tight seal being pulled apart stirs him from his thoughts. The silence returns, but in it treads voiceless steps.
"Aatrox, my friend, I am far too old for your 'surprise attacks'. Just come and speak to me like a normal Darkin, won't you?" The silence holds, but then a grim chuckle slices through it. From the shadows steps a gleaming figure, shimmering gold and glowing the purest of blues, like the ocean at sunrise.
"A normal Darkin? Can such a thing even be uttered?"
"For someone who knows the other four, yes. Now come, come. Sit." From nothingness, a chair as fair and glorious as the Darkin came into being. Aatrox raised an unseen eyebrow but did as he was told, letting go of his deadly white blade. It spun like a compass before settling itself tip downward, humming sweetly as it floated.
"Master Zilean, what ails you?" The air was musty in the room, Zilean's force field around it choking his tower and all within it. But, it was a necessary measure -- too many people hunted for the ancient being, and the numbers grew every day.
"I have had a terrible new vision, I am afraid. We have lost yet another child of prophecy to the future."
Aatrox's face dimmed at this, and he sat back into his chair sombered.
"No, she remains a free agent. I fear all might be lost, should Lissandra have won her--"
Aatrox hissed at the words, his lips pulled back tight. His teeth were sharpened to points, each one a miniature blade. "Do not speak that wretched name! It makes for us bad luck."
Zilean chuckled dryly and shook his head. "Luck has little to do with where we find ourselves now."
The Darkin calmed and shifted in his chair, crossing and recrossing his legs and arms; he could not bring himself to comfort now.
"So it was Trundle then."
The old man simply nodded, his beard brushing against his legs, such was its length. It seemed greyer and greyer with each of Aatrox's visits.
"There is more. But what of you, Aatrox? Pray you have good news, or else I'm afraid my old heart might give out."
Aatrox eased and smiled, leaning forward on his blade now as one would upon a cane.
"I freed the yeti and instilled them both with a touch of bravery too, not that they seemed to need it. Both of them have set out on their journey." Aatrox grew taller and gleamed a bit brighter as he spoke, his pride lighting the room. But the cheer died as Aatrox remembered of Zilean's vision.
"It is only a small victory, however. What more did you have to say?"
"Aatrox, no victory is small these days. Take anything you can get and cherish it. And--" his voice tapered off into strangled quiet.
He tried to speak again, but could not. He summoned a tea cup and saucer into his outstretched hand, the two of them clattering as he tried grasping; He was shaking.
Aatrox stood faster than a blink and kneeled behind his old friend, draping his wings around them. Gingerly, he took the saucer and let it drop away into dust.
"Master, what is it? What could possibly frighten you so--"
"It is you, Aatrox. It is something I must ask of you. Something so horrible that I won't ever be able to ask of your forgiveness."
The chamber was quiet. The Darkin was still, as a Gargoyle would be above a young Yordle girl one day -- one of the prophetic visions that Zilean had had. Neither said anything for what seemed an eternity to Aatrox, but just a moment to Zilean.
The Darkin stood to leave, needing a breath of fresh air. Just as he began to purge the force field, Zilean croaked these words:
"Tryndamere. I need you to give him something to fight for."
Aatrox was silent -- this was no cause for dismay. Sensing confusion, Zilean continued.
"My friend, you do not comprehend what I say. It is Genocide I must ask of you. And not just one -- countless."
The old woman took a pause to look at the young girl before her, who sat engrossed. However, her eyes were not wide with simple interest, but they were edgy, as if she wished to run and hide.
The story had gotten a bit too scary for her.
Perhaps I need to tone it down for the little one. I mustn't frighten her with the truth.
"You aren't scared, are you?" She mused, running her gaunt hands through the little girl's mop of hair. She giggled at the touch and shook her head, lying.
"No! Keep going. But what's Aatrox supposed to do? I don't get it."
This caught the grandmother; how does one explain genocide to a little girl?
"Well," she began, speaking slowly. "It's sort of like a war, only it's a war that one side doesn't want. But don't worry about it, dear. It's all just part of the story."
The little girl simply nodded and pulled the blankets tight around her.
Aatrox felt dozens upon dozens of eyes on him as he walked through the city. It has not because of his wings or his odd form or even the exuberant glow he gave off. He was tightly wrapped in a grey cloak for all that, trying to look uninteresting. No, it was for his size:
In the cities of Man, he was tall. In this city of Yordles, he was a giant.
Yet, this is where Zilean had sent him. To this odd, this quaint, little place.
The building stood at a slight angle, gushes of smoke spinning upward from metal tubes stuck every which way on the roof and sides. Aatrox noticed that there seemed to be a patten to it -- a pause, then a sucking noise, then a great explosion of the black clouds.
The building was breathing.
Aatrox hesitated for a moment before setting his gloved hand down on the knocker, a dead 'thwomp' surging across the door. It stung him somehow, so honest a noise. This was the business door, and what grave a business was he in.
Before he had a chance to go anywhere, the door burst open, a lumbering creature of frightening girth looming in the entrance. In his grasp was a golden hammer, studded and looking more and more like a weapon each moment he wielded it.
"Yes?" He asked, sweat scurrying off his face into his beard at the sound of his voice, a deep, resonating boom. Aatrox could not answer, transfixed by the the sheen of his red fur. He had noticed that Yordles were dimorphic, women blue skinned, while the men were all like this. So strange. Although, who was he to comment -- There were only four others like his self.
"I am here to request a blade. It is of some importance, so I thought to deliver the message in person rather than by carrier--"
"HA! Well, why didn't you say so? Come, come!" The Yordle's rugged face split into a toothy grin and he grabbed Aatrox and quite nearly dragged him inside. It was all the Darkin could do to not use his wings to stabilize himself from the rugged welcome.
"Poppy, sweety, bring Daddy some tea for two!" He bellowed into the shop, the sound of metal sizzling and flames roaring doing little to stifle his voice. His steps twisted and the irresistible grip let go all at once, allowing Aatrox to teeter around before he caught his balance, sitting immediately when he saw the Yordle collapse into a different chair. Between them was a tiny round table with a wooden top and metal legs.
"Ahhh...Nothing like a sit and some tea after a days work. Hours are long here, but, ah, I love it. What do you do?" He seemed to be talking as much to the shop as he was to Aatrox, the Darkin keeping his silence, especially at that question. The Yordle chuckled and sat up, extending his meaty paw again to shake.
"Forgotten my manners, I have. Name's Blomgrun, though I'm sure you already knew that, coming all the way to Bandle city and all that." Aatrox took the hand hesitantly and shook, squeezing back to let him know he wasn't a weakling.
"Zilean," He said, lying. Blomgrun nodded at the name, as if he'd appraised it to be a fine piece of metal craft. A pang of guilt erupted in his chest.
"And this," Blomgrun said, his voice suddenly dripping with honey. "Is my little pride and joy, Poppy." Aatrox turned to see a tiny Yordle girl walking up to them, her hair in two long pony tails, as tall as she was long so that they brushed the floor. She couldn't have been more than five years old, large, round eyes following him closely. She wobbled and took a few steps, struggling under the too-large-for-her tray.
Aatrox smiled bitter-sweetly at the little one -- so full of strength. She would need it someday.
The young Poppy wandered over and set the tea before her father, who gave her a kiss on the brow and sent her scampering away, the tools clanging moments later.
"She's precious, ain't she?" Blomgrun did nothing to mask his pride, sitting tall and eyes gleaming as he scanned the next room for even a glimpse of his daughter. "Have any children of your own?"
"W-what?" This caught Aatrox off guard.
"Children. Have any? Have a wife?"
Aatrox darkened, and slumped into his chair. "No, not really. I had a girlfriend, but she didn't visit enough. Things didn't work out so well."
Blomgrun simply 'Mhmmed' and poured some tea. His hands, scarred and used to grabbing burning metal, held the teapot with elegance, not a drop wavering on its path.
"Women don't always last forever. They come and they go, but you'll find one that suits you eventually." He smiled knowingly and pushed the saucer across to Aatrox. "Then have a kid with her, and you'll really never be alone."
Aatrox looked into the tea, his dark face obscured. What was he?
"I'm a mercenary."
Blomgrun 'ahh'ed this time and leaned back in his chair before wordlessly extending a hand, palm up. Aatrox seemed to know already what he was looking for, and pulled the blueprints from his travel pouch. Blomgrun unfurled it and gave a low whistle.
"This is not a blade that most can make, or even would try to. With serration like that, I suppose you want it made outta, what, Bloodiron?"
Aatrox nodded, dazed at the smith's insight. He might as well tell him everything by this point if he was figuring it all out as he went along. But the Yordle just chuckled and slammed it down on the table.
"Well, I'm not one to judge. Never have been. Feller came in here, all robed up, like you, said he was a mercenary, like you, and had me make him a lamp-post. I asked him if he wanted a real weapon, and he just laughed."
Blomgrun was eyeing him now, a smile itching to cross his face. Aatrox wish he could feel the same, for as kind and charismatic as the smith was, that only made him feel worse. The Darkin already knew what was to come --
An orphan and her hammer.
"I like this Poppy girl! Does she become a princess?"
The Grandmother laughed; Far from it.
"No, sweetie -- she becomes a Knight."
"But aren't only boys knights? Daddy told me only boys are knights and girls are princesses." She seemed confused by this, nervously biting down onto her blanket: a bad habit of her's she couldn't seem to shake.
"You, my dear, can by anything you want to be, Knight or a Princess! Or, even a Dragon!!" The girl squealed as the old woman snapped her jaws and tickled her viciously, their laughter bouncing around the corners of the small cabin. It died down and all became quiet, save for a sudden rumble from the bed.
The Grandmother smiled. Someone needed some breakfast.
"Let's go get that rumble-y tummy some food!"
"Can I cook Grandma? Can I?"
"Of course dear, I'll help, and tell you some more about Poppy and Aatrox, hm?"
"Yes dear. Especially Blomgrun."
"You have to let me tell him."
"Aatrox, I would not advise it."
"Advised or not, I need too. I need to know I've done something more than just murder and inspire war crimes."
The Tower was quiet today, a hiss of fire and a soft murmur of rain somewhere outside in the world all the noise to be heard. The weather formed a strange bubble around the building, the clouds parting around it grudgingly, wanting badly to touch it with their dark folds.
"I must not, Aatrox! As it is, the missions I send you on alter time to dangerous degrees. To out and out flaunt our presence would cause a catastrophe."
"Then that is simply a catastrophe we'll need to cause."
Aatrox glowered at the old man, Zilean reclined in his rocker deeper than ever. He lifted a bony hand and rubbed his brow, eyes pressed shut tightly. His other hand conjured a cup of tea, this one snug and secure in his palm. After a long drink and a sigh that was not of satisfaction but of weariness, he spoke again.
Aatrox leapt to his feet, smiling for the first time in weeks. The Darkin began to thank him, but Zilean just rose a hand, waving him back down.
"There are conditions, of course, and I would need you to promise not fight me so much on future missions."
Aatrox's smile did not falter, but he covered his mouth to not look like so much of a fool. Zilean's conditions were never good, and their might be something worse in the future that he would want to change.
Do you really want to use your single favor on this?
What was he talking about, of course he did. Where did these thoughts keep coming from?
"What are the rules?" He asked, having wiped the smile from his face. In his hand he held it, hoping to wear it sooner again than later.
"For one, you need to make sure it looks like he has died. In fact, truly will die -- only, you will have this for him." Zilean circled his hand in the air, a fist sized hourglass dropping down with a promising 'thump'.
"Here." He held it out, almost happy to get away from it with how quickly he pulled back after Aatrox held it.
"Hourglasses. It's always hourglasses with you." Aatrox smiled at his old friend, who just stared bleakly into the fire.
"Well, unless you've an idea better!"
"A pocket watch perhaps? Or a sun dial?"
Zilean smirked ever so slightly, the briefest relief from his regular solemn looks. The room returned to it's dreary monotone, the fire nothing but a cough of smoke now. The rain was getting heavier now, hundreds of fingers on a great big drum.
There was a yipping that made them both jump, the hourglass nearly spilling out of Aatrox's hands. He clasped it tighter, and felt something like the heartbeat of a bird, faint but warm.
"So I see you really did get what I asked for."
"Yes, and it still seems foolish to me."
"Do not make light of it -- it is to become a champion."
The animal burst free, and set about motoring around the floor. It quickly found Zilean's feet and began licking them, making an almost purring sound. There was a strike of lightning, and it quickly curled up into a ball, shivering in fear.
Aatrox gave a tight lipped smile and crossed his arms, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, he shall become a champion, with your help. The first and last of his kind, unless time should someday tell me something other."
Aatrox's smile was hidden once again.
"You always know how to kill a cheery mood, don't you?"
Zilean smirked this time and gave a simple shrug. "One of my unfortunate talents. You remember the rest of the mission?"
"Of course. It was too ridiculous to forget. Fly the little brute to Plague Jungles and then recapture to have him fitted for armor."
"Excellent. Well, unless you feel like tea, you can go whenever you feel ready."
Zilean's words fell to an empty chamber. Aatrox had left already, happy to get away from the old man.
Silence returned to the chambers, a cold that hadn't been there before sneaking into Zilean's bones. He would feel better about it all eventually, but it would take a long time.
Good thing he had longer still. Too long. Forever.
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