Decided to take a small detour from a perspective of virtue and justice, and picking up on some Noxian action. I Imagine that a temporary break from Kayle might help flesh out any decent storylines in my head, so I'm giving this a shot in spare time as well. As always, welcoming of comment or criticism.
The young woman stares expectantly towards the ornate marbled doors before her, admiring the intricate patterns chiseled into the surface alongside necromantic skulls and unintelligible script, perhaps remnant of a civilization long since forgotten. Shifting in uncomfortable anxiety, her leather vestures cling relentlessly against her ashen skin, decorated with a variety of belts and pouches housing exquisite daggers and assorted blades. Exhaustion hangs as dark circles around the brilliant emerald eyes that attempt to pierce the obstacle she faces, as though to search the room for adverse conditions; to no avail, she scowls in frustration and presses the palms of her hands against the cool stone. With a gentle push, the doors swing open in dramatic fashion, tardily revealing the contents of the study, and its peculiar inhabitant.
Katarina pinches her lower lip between her teeth before shooting a cynical smile in the man's direction. Shrouded in thick layers of olive robes contrasted by elegant golden armor and trimmings, the man is immediately recognized as her superior. His weathered face pulls into an expression of perverse mirth, and he playfully kicks a nearby walking cane to hand, hefting his weight upon it. Evidence of an old wound proves axiomatic as he favors one leg over the other, shambling towards the woman at a comfortable pace. A disturbingly twisted avian creature rests upon his shoulder, scowling in her direction.
Pulling her legs together and straightening her posture, she flourishes her arm through the motions of a salute, reluctantly regarding the Noxian High Commander's formidable status.
'Jericho Swain, to what pleasure might I attribute this audience?'
She queries coaxingly, raising her eyebrow in such a manner as to denote her immediate displeasure with circumstances.
The man's eyes brighten such that in spite of his mouth's being veiled by his garments, a smile's presence becomes understood.
'Lady Katarina, while you may display an array of talents, flattery, seemingly, is not one of them. Incredibly, your persistent disposition for me remains as transparent as, from how I understand it, your presence has been lately.'
He murmurs dispassionately, drumming his fingers against his cane. His eyes, sunken into the hardened carapace of his visage, burn scarlet. Maneuvering around his subsidiary, he retrieves a pair of crystalline glasses along with a bottle of aged whiskey from an imposing amoire decorated similarly to the doorway of the study. Having poured himself and his guest a considerable volume of the beverage, he offers Katarina a glass, which she retrieves from him unquestioningly.
Lurching once more to his desk, he leans upon it, and swirls the glass in his palm; gazing into it's amber contents, he admires the translucent characteristic suggestive of considerable quality.
'Imagine my surprise-'
He pauses to tug the ceremonial collar from around his throat, and swallows a mouthful of whiskey.
'-when my men reported your absence during scheduled negotiations this week. Notoriety and demeanor are the two factors playing into diplomacy, and your irresponsible nonattendance may very well have jeopardized my plans. Zaunites demand functionaries of prestige, or audience, subsequently, is denied.'
The commander exhales through his nostrils, flaring them. He waves his hand in a gesture of dismissal, and raises his eyes to meet her own.
'I do not intend to rely upon a tenuous alliance with Zaun, Katarina. I thirst for their allegiance. Noxus suffers from regrettably poor relations with the remaining city-states, and the sheer techmaturgical contracts alone could bolster our already threatening militaristic presence.'
Resting his glass atop the desk, he struggles to his feet once again, and approaches the woman. The raven-like creature flutters from master, returning to the abandoned drink, and dips a curious beak into the liquid. Folding his hands behind his back, he glances through the enormous window of the study, considering the hazy streets of Noxus.
'Under the command of our beloved General Boram Darkwill, we have acquired a generous level of respect born from fear, and with it, an unshakable isolation. Although I don't dare question the informed decisions of our leader, our undeniable impositions requires us to maintain a guise of strength, immortality, and confidence. Affairs I cannot speak of curtail aggressive overextention, and we find ourselves in need of unquestionable alliance, not friendly trade.'
Swinging his cold gaze to his silent visitor, he nods his head approvingly.
'I care little for any excuses you might formulate at this time, Lady Katarina. Let it be well known, my immense disappointment, and confidence in your future endeavors to redeem this perfidy. Soon as is convenient, travel to Zaun and make amends for your absence. Should you require further instruction, I shall, as always, deliver promptly.'
The gravity of his voice chills the woman, who grimaces at the lecture. Rushing a hand through her crimson bangs, she vocalizes nonverbal obedience. Jericho Swain, refraining from setting his sights upon her, raises his hand, and flexes it towards the exit.
'See your way out, Katarina. And do not thwart me again.'
His voice carries with it a venomous seriousness. His avian companion, having had its fill, returns to its master's shoulder, and caws condescendingly in agreement, to Swain's delight.
Stroking the bizzare creature's feathers with the knuckles of one hand, the commander inhales sharply as Katarina turns to depart.
'I await word of your success.'
And with that, silence overwhelms the study. Tapping his finger atop the beak of his companion, Swain's eyes meet those of Beatrice's.
'Such curious behavior, is it not? Quite rare for a dependable resource to act in such a manner. Whatever might have possessed her, I wonder...?'
His speculation stirs the bird, and he soothes it with soft brushes of his fingertips, puzzling over the matter no longer. Far greater mysteries called to him, and with his answers, the very future lay vulnerable to the whims of the reputed 'Master Tactician' of Noxus.
Katarina seethes over her recent lecturing, pride understandably stung by the callous words of her superior. Quite unfamiliar with reprimand, the scenario had proven uncomfortable and demeaning. After all, she was renowned for her outstanding service to Noxus, and enjoyed the position of a highly decorated soldier; since when did she answer to such criticism? Nonetheless, considering her voluntary withdrawal from orders for personal enterprise, she felt anything but astonished. She had ventured elsewhere by her own accord, and the journey itself had been considerable. Her muscles ached with fatigue, and a headache threatened to expose itself behind her tired eyes.
Treading along the corridors of the Du Couteau estate, silence answers the echos of her footfall as she makes her way to the living quarters. Since childhood, she had enjoyed the privilege of nobility, and explored the vast territories of the Du Couteau name with endless delight, thriving even within the subterranean labyrinthine passages lurking below. Though her siblings had became enamored with a lifestyle of luxury, Katarina had always chosen to steal away to the dungeons beneath the land, admiring the chilling atmosphere and tranquility.
Exhaling softly, she removes the leather gloves from her wrists, marveling at the sensation of freedom. Her lips twist into an exhausted smile as she continues disrobing to her unmentionables, the intrusive moonlight dancing across her body with kisses of soft ivory, caressing the myriad of subtle scars speckling her otherwise flawless skin. The restrictive leather garb dapples the hallway as she approaches her dwelling, reminiscent of a trail of juvenile apathy.
Upon entering her room, she is startled by the presence of her younger sister, Cassiopeia, whom carefully admires a particular blade in hand, turning it over and over in her palms, eyes hungrily devouring the details of the ornamented weapon.
'Cass? What are you doing?'
Katarina demands, irritation hanging on each word, already flustered by prior events. With several long strides, she closes the distance between the two, and snatches the object from her. Gently lifting the blade to the mantle, she spins on her ankles to glare at her guest.
The lamia smiles sweetly, and allows a coltish hiss to escape from her lips.
'Ssssince when do I need reason to visit with my ssssister?'
She inquires teasingly, drumming her svelte nails atop the crooks of each elbow.
Katarina sneers in defeat, unwilling to compromise the situation any further, as the thought of confrontation served only to heighten her lingering enervation. Throwing herself against the silk sheets of her bed, she pulls a hand to her forehead to combat a now-throbbing headache. The vexations of this day seemed endless.
'Rumor has it that ssssomebody has been quite naughty.'
Cassiopeia prods, slithering alongside her sibling and resting her chin in the palm of one hand, while accusingly fingertipping her nails down Katarina's shoulder with the other.
The defendant grunts agreeably.
Cassiopeia's tail sways back and forth with immense pleasure as she relishes the remarkably uncommon shamefulness of her sister, but frowns as rare vulnerability reveals itself in her prey. Abandoning her efforts of interrogation as she gazes into the eyes of a woman scorned, Cassiopeia smiles apologetically, and begins to brush Katarina's disheveled hair into something more organized.
'You went to ssssee him, didn't you?'
She inquires pleasantly, the directness of her question stirring Katarina, whose cheeks betray her with a faint flush.
'I have absolutely no idea to whom you might be referring.'
She deflects, ignoring the concordant nods of sarcasm. Subconsciously, her eyes seek the mounted sword she had wrested from her sister not moments ago, a blade unwieldy for one such as herself. Cassiopeia's sights trail those of her sister's, and having solved the curiosity of affairs, coos softly with realization.
'Incredible I had missed it. No wonder you're sssso protective of it, the trophy of your conquest. Sssseems Ssssion's corpse was not your only accolade?'
Katarina twists away from her sister, and curls her knees to her chest. Glowering over her shoulder, she narrows her beryl eyes.
'I'll not have you accusing me of treason. A worthy opponent is not the same as what you suggest.'
The seriousness of her expression catches the serpentine woman off-guard, leaving her uncertain. Cassiopeia rises from the bed and raises her hands in a gesture of surrender.
'As you wish, ssssister. Though you sssshould know I would never ssssuggest ssssuch a thing, let alone judge.'
She winks playfully as she excuses herself from the chambers, abandoning Katarina to the hot blush that now consumes her fully.
'It's not...like that...'
She defends quietly, relaxing her posture. After taking a second to glance at the ill-gotten armament, she squeezes a pillow to her breast and closes her eyes, resigning herself to the rest she had been deprived for so long.
Katarina awakens from her slumber refreshed and innervated, pausing from her morning routine to indulge in a considerable stretch, working out any remnant tension. Brushing aside the delicate curtains from the window, she peers into the bustling -more so in the sense of trouble-making and mischief than trade or labor- streets of Noxus, and a faint smile conveys the woman's love for this land; though she could not disregard the flagrant flaws of the city-state, her motivation to help shape it into something greater far exceeded any dissatisfaction she might harbor.
Having been sternly prompted to fulfill her political obligations in Zaun, Katarina fingers through the contents of her drawers, silently evaluating the myriad of clothing within. As Swain had vaguely referenced, diplomatic relations proved a curious affair, being of incredible psychological importance. Exhibiting etiquette and refined mannerisms, an honest demeanor, and overall maintaining the appearance of aristocracy were aspects of utmost value; should a functionary lack these qualities, Zaun would turn them away without hesitation, trusting to receive only relevant persons to discuss sensitive issues at hand. Her father had helpfully recommended favoring the sanction of a noble over that of a soldier, hoping to appeal to the more romantic sensibilities of the Zaunites.
Self-consciously glancing towards her bust, she contemplates a corset, but forgoes the hassle, as applying it by her lonesome would likely prove more laborious than rewarding. Settling upon a magnificent violet gown, her undeniable femininity reveals itself in exhilaration as she holds it up to her body. A joyful giggle escapes her as she slips into the silken gown, admiring the way it accentuates the curves of her body -tailored snug around her bosom and hips- then flourishes as it reaches down the length her legs. Though she preferred the innate comfort and utility of her customary garments, she admittedly savored the opportunity to surrender to her feminine tendencies at least on occasion.
Retrieving a pair of extensive, amethyst gloves, she draws them to her shoulders, and flexes her fingers against the satin material. Further adorning herself in a low-hanging strand of pearls, a jeweled choker, and exquisite chromatic earrings, Katarina hurriedly steps to the mirror to appraise her attire.
She hardly recognized herself.
Having pinned the majority of her hair up, a coiffure hangs along her shoulder blades, contrasting the paleness of her shoulders and neck with brilliant scarlet. Although the scar running vertically over her left eye felt exposed, she acknowledged that her militant status would not be overlooked, and considered it evidence of the respectable role she played in society.
Turning her attention to other needs, she tosses a rucksack atop her bed, and searches her room for items that might prove worthwhile on her journey. Recovering foremost her beloved knives, she carefully wraps them in a square of silk -to preserve them- and lays them gently into the knapsack, along with a change of clothes and other necessities unworthy of mention.
'I suppose it's off to Zaun.'
She lingers before the vanity mirror, allowing herself a self-satisfying turn as she digests the rare beauty mimicking her, before continuing along with her objectives in mind.
Upon exiting her home, Katarina finds herself graced with the presence of a horrifying -and thus immediately perceptible- creature, more machine than man. His breathing apparatus hisses with each labored breath, his scarred flesh heaving in sync with his painful rasping. A wicked blade and firing mechanism replace what should be his forearms,while electrical pylons stitched into his spine crackle with necromantic energy, fueling the mechanical quadruped his torso rests upon. Setting his single, milky eye upon the ravishing young woman -the techmaturgical remainder evaluating her features mathematically-, the misshapen being approaches with uneven steps, leaning more closely than necessary to address her.
'Together: we go.'
He states, his words as void of emotion as they are humanity, slurred with mechanized efforts.
Responsively, Katarina kneads her brow between the knuckles of two fingers in quiet frustration.
As the identity of the party responsible for the intrusive escort comes to mind, a grimace stains her otherwise lovely countenance. The unnecessary addition confirmed his increasing distrust in her, and while she cared little for his personal admiration, nevertheless grasped the necessity of maintaining the esteemed Du Couteau name; in this, she could have no objection. Rolling her vivid eyes in surrender, she glances up at her monstrous companion.
'Excellent. While you're not quite the valiant steed I had hoped for, you can certainly prove worthwhile nonetheless.'
She declares smugly, tossing her belongings into the dumbfounded creature's arms, who resigns to his established role wordlessly.
As the pair walk, or perhaps more fitting, ambulate -considering present company- through the Noxian streets, Katarina finds herself victimized by the jeering, sarcastic compliments of its residents, an irritated flush rising in her cheeks. Although no man dared sully the Du Couteau name, it was perfectly within reason to enjoy a laugh at the expense of such superfluous attire, with the fortune of anonymity. In retrospection, Katarina reckons that perhaps it would have been sagacious to have exchanged vestures upon arrival into Zaun. Having her judgment clouded with the rare appreciation -and subsequent mockery- of her femininity, perhaps, is what irks her most. Her fingers curl fistfuls of the gown into her palms as she attempts to ignore the crowd, growing more heated with every comment.
Momentarily detouring from their path, and much to Katarina's surprise, her comrade hobbles towards the impish crowd, and raises his bladed arm in a gesture of casual execution.
He commands, tone frigid with an ice that only reanimation could provide.
The miscreants, considering the alternative, determine that the best course of action is, in fact, to follow this sagely advice, and retreat to the alleyways with incoherent mumblings masking their fright. Katarina turns towards her benefactor, folding her arms as indication of adolescent defiance.
'I won't thank you, Urgot.'
She insists hotly, vexations plaguing her yet . Admittedly, had the gown been less restrictive, she might have culled the well-humored herd herself.
The mountainous malcontent retorts with silence as it shambles along towards the gateway of Noxus, gazing upon her only when she taciturnly retrieves her belongings, choosing to shoulder them on her own.
She imagined that could the dreadful thing smile, it might have.
Ending Part Four of Chapter One, more to come later
© 2013 Riot Games, Inc. All rights reserved. Riot Games, League of Legends and PvP.net are trademarks, services marks, or registered trademarks of Riot Games, Inc.