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'Cuz it's what all the cool kids are doing.
Candidate: Darius Date: 22 May, 22 CLE
The figure enters the Great Hall with a surprising softness, especially considering the thick, bulky armor that covers the vast majority of his body, not to mention his enormous size. That size is the first thing that strikes a casual observer; while larger men exist, their numbers are decidedly thin. Even through the armor, one can easily notice his enormous arms and torso, and his neck has more or less been swallowed up. In spite of this, however, he moves with greater fluidity and grace than a man of his stature has any right to. His steps, while indicative of great pride, barely make a sound other than a soft click, something suggestive of both measured caution and an ever-so-subtle attempt at intimidation; after all, a man that big who moves that lightly and deliberately would surely extend that same awareness and control to combat situations.
The other thing that attracts attention, of course, is his axe. By the looks of it, two hundred pounds seems an accurate enough estimate of its weight; the head alone is roughly half his size, and the dull, pockmarked gleam contrasting with the wickedly glistening edge suggests a weapon that has both seen much use in its time while being cared for exceptionally well. More alarming, however, is the seemingly effortless manner in which he totes it single-handedly as if it were no more than a vagrant's bindle. The average man, after all, would barely even be able to lift this off the ground, let alone heft it without dislocating his shoulder.
As Darius advances towards the great marble doors, his eyes swiftly dart around even as they scan the room for any possible threats, regardless of the likelihood of there actually being any. Taking pause, he inspects the inscription above, looking it over repeatedly to make sure that he has taken in all pertinent information.
The truest opponent lies within.
With an acknowledging grunt, he places a hand on the doors, which soundlessly part and invite him to step forth into the uninviting darkness of the Reflection Chamber.
No sooner had he entered than he was thrust back into the sounds, sights, and smells of the battlefield that he had left behind so very long ago. It was all there: the clank of metal on metal punctuated by the occasional explosion, profanity-laden battle cry, or scream of agony, the scattered skirmishes of the living amidst a veritable ocean of bodies, discarded weapons, and scattered guts (and worse, as evidenced by the many heads skewered on stakes and the presence of a man's genitals stuck obscenely on the hook of a halberd), and the stench. By God, the stench. The stench of rotting corpses, of maggot-coated piles of refuse from the encampments, of ground turned to mud by the blood of the fallen, of feces from scattered piles of intestines and uncovered makeshift latrines, and puddles of vomit from those overcome by the sheer sensory assault of it all. It was not something that he missed.
Standing around admiring the scenery, of course, was a great way to get killed, and Darius had no intention of dying. While Demacia had a decided advantage at the moment, it was mostly due to numbers, and superior numbers didn't matter that much when the army consisted of a bunch of terrified conscripts serving their mandatory time in the military along with a few trained elites. Not only were the conscripts easily rattled, but they were also laughably poor fighters; a grand total of four weeks of training was far, far too little to be able to competently do one's duty on the fields of battle. In contrast, even a lowly enlistee one step removed from the gutter got at least three months worth of training, if not more. It was certainly not something that worried him all that much.
He wasted no time in getting to work. While his axe wasn't the most intuitive weapon in the world, it suited him well; in one swing, he had already mortally wounded a horse and sent its rider flying before running to the rider and crushing his skull with one decisive stomp of his armored boot. Sure, he could have easily used the axe on him as well, but why waste the energy doing that when a far simpler way existed? Pragmatism, after all, was Darius' central ethos. It had suited him well when he and his brother were lowly street orphans; while other orphans were stealing from market stalls or robbing peddlers, Darius and Draven took the far simpler route of pilfering from the supply carts in the early hours, as the skeleton crew of guards at that time were in no mood to chase a couple of street kids through the labyrinth of alleyways lit only by seldom-replaced torches that were liable to burn out or fall from rust-eaten braziers at any moment. This focus on the path of least resistance continued even when Darius had grown large and strong enough that not even the guards wanted to deal with him, as he simply took to serving as a loan shark's enforcer while occasionally participating in cage matches at taverns for some extra cash. Paid to take a dive? No problem. He'd win the fight anyways and kill anyone who tried to punish him for it. At the age of fifteen, he was already a dreaded face in the underworld.
Draven, meanwhile, had become a small-time pimp; their ventures occasionally overlapped when a john wouldn't pay up or had hurt one of his girls, as Darius would "discipline" the offender for far cheaper than anyone else. Neither of them liked what they did, however; the attempts on their lives grew tiring, as did their frustrations with indigent employers (Darius) or "employees" (Draven). They both wanted out, and they wanted out very badly.
It was that fateful day when Draven pointed out the poster to him that would change their lives forever. "FULFILL YOUR ENLISTMENT REQUIREMENTS NOW!", it read. "FIGHT FOR HONOR, FOR GLORY, FOR NOXUS! TRAVEL TO UNSEEN LANDS! THERE IS NO GLORY GREATER THAN DEFENDING ONE'S COUNTRY! SIGN UP TODAY!". This was it. A ticket to rise above the filth of the gutter and the slime he grudgingly associated himself with. A means by which to propel him and his brother from street trash to individuals of fully-earned magnanimity and renown. It was decided, then. No second thoughts, this was happening. "Come on", he said to Draven. "We're enlisting. I've had enough of being an enforcer, and deep down, you know that you were born for better things than pimping. This is not an option, Draven, so don't even argue with me. Greatness is within our grasp, and we will achieve it. This is our chance to do so". Draven was wordless, but nodded nonetheless and walked with his brother to a nearby enlistment booth, where both of them grabbed a form from the pile and a quill and proceeded to fill it without so much as a single question. The road had been paved, and they had just made their first step.
What followed was fourteen weeks of hellish, brutal, utterly dehumanizing training, but they persisted because the Noxian way did not look kindly upon those who did not legitimately earn their positions. Nothing worthwhile was supposed to come easy, and besides, one Noxian soldier who had gone through full training was worth fifteen Demacian conscriptees who had been rushed through a barebones program that seemed designed less to create strong warriors and more to provide an endless stream of cheap, disposable grunts. Once the program had been completed, Darius and Draven were, much to their surprise, awarded with suits of armor normally reserved for elites and given their pick of weaponry that was, again, not something an ordinary soldier was ever supposed to receive from the get-go. When they asked for an explanation, the answer shocked them: not only had they passed training with flying colors, but they had received the best marks ever seen in over fifty years. Putting aside their immense surprise, they wasted no time in choosing their instruments of choice, with Darius picking an enormous axe and Draven picking a smaller but equally-menacing double-ended spear.
Flash-forward to the current moment in time. While Darius had swiftly executed a cavalryman before grabbing a nearby archer by the head and ramming him forehead-first into the hook of his axe with a sickening crack that vaguely resembled a particularly sturdy nut being broken open, Draven was busy mowing his way through a small squadron of pikemen, his monkey-like agility and near-preternatural speed visibly at work as he leaped and spun through the ranks, killing the last man before it seemed as if the first man had even fell. Darius, meanwhile, took a more deliberate approach, sending the blunt end of his axe crashing into an unmounted cataphract's breastplate; while the blow was softened, it was easily still enough to fracture his ribs. As the man staggered back, Darius used the momentum from the recoil to swing the back of his axe around, hook his neck, and snap it with enough force to actually yank his head from his body and take part of the spine with it. It was right after he had assumed proper position again that he heard a great, fast-approaching din that could only mean one thing.
What had seemed like a probable, if not difficult victory had suddenly been completely upended. This wasn't a small relief force - this was an entire legion that gave him serious reason to believe that the forces that they had started out against were just the vanguard.
Not good. Not good. Not good AT ALL.
It was then that Draven ran up to him.
"Uh, bro, please tell me that I'm hallucinating, aight?"
"No. You're seeing everything correctly."
"Oh boy. What the hell do we do now, then?"
"Your guess is as good as mine."
In the middle of their back-and-forth, their captain's horn sounded. This was a well-understood command to retreat and discuss matters in a (mostly) combat-free area. Darius was not about to dispute this order for the time being, and neither was his brother.
At the destination, his captain began the lecture. "As you are all very well aware, we went from being roughly equal in number to truly, hideously, massively outnumbered. Any further action at this point is not just idiotic, it's also downright suicidal."
"So where do we go from here?", Darius asked.
"Easy. We don't. We sit down and stay put until we either get some reinforcements of our own or Singed and the melters show up and reduce them to sludge, whatever comes first. Either way, going back is not an option."
"I do not agree with you, Captain."
"Good for you. You can go out and get your stupid ass killed while we sit back and wait."
"No. The rest of you are coming with me."
Captain Pelletier's shock was almost palpable.
"Have you lost your friggin' mind? No, seriously, did you get hit in the head or something?"
"No. I'm being completely logical here. Think about it. They're expecting us to either huddle in our tents like scared children or bend right over and surrender unconditionally. If we wait, they're not going to be content to just stick with the reinforcements they've got now. By the time ours get here, assuming they do, anyways, they'll have brought in at least two or three more. Time is NOT on our side, Captain. If we turn around right now, however, they won't be expecting it; by the time they've fully reacted, we'll have eliminated most of those reinforcements."
"You know what? I'm done talking to you. You're either a cretin or a lunatic, and your suggestions are going to get us all killed. I'd suggest you shut up now before I have you executed for insubordination. You're tremendously lucky that I didn't just do that from the start, actually."
It was then that Darius walked up to Pelletier, ever-so-carefully readying his axe for that one moment.
"I don't think you get it, Captain. This is no longer your company, and I do not recognize your authority anymore. You have ceded control to me."
Before Pelletier could even react, Darius had swiftly decapitated him in one lightning-quick blaze of motion. Surveying the horrified faces of his men, Darius wasted no time in continuing the momentum.
"I AM YOUR NEW CAPTAIN, AND YOU WILL ANSWER TO AND TAKE ORDERS FROM ME! AS OF THE END OF THIS SENTENCE, YOUR ORDERS ARE TO ENGAGE THE ENEMY AND CONTINUE TO DO SO UNTIL THEY HAVE RETREATED OR HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY ELIMINATED!"
To his shock, however, his men did not budge.
Wait. This isn't how it goes.
It was then that Pelletier's corpse reanimated, grabbed its head, and stood up.
"Why do you want to join the League, Darius?"
In spite of the sheer, unfathomable wrongness of what he was seeing, Darius answered immediately.
"For Swain. For Noxus. Because it is my duty to my country and people, and my country and people trump all other needs and obligations."
"How does it feel, exposing your mind?"
"My intentions were clear from the get-go. I don't know why you're acting as if it's some grand revelation" he replied, as the scenes of the battlefield faded and shifted back to the Reflection Chamber that he had originally entered. Ignoring the Summoner standing nearby, he nonchalantly walked out of the doors and into the League proper.
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Truly a fascinating interpretation to read man. Darius is my favorite champion lore wise and I honestly felt as if they never dived deep enough into who he is. Loved this.
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I am necrobumping this because it is not the first result on DuckDuckGo and I showed someone the wrong League Judgment by accident.