Alas, a story of two extremely dysfunctional assassins and their pursuits of...not trying to kill each other. Leave comments & suggestions please!
(Alternative link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8018109/)
Chapter 1: The Clash of Two Blades
"A fighter who fights for his heart is the one who truly wins, regardless of the of the battle's outcome."
Those were his master's words, yet Talon had nothing. He remembers no family, warmth, or kindness. His only purpose was to follow his master's orders, like a good dog of the state.
Shadowed and concealed by the many trees of the Noxian outskirts, he peered out of his dark purple cloak to skim the surrounding area. On his right arm was his closest ally: a large, double sided blade that had feasted on the blood of many - and it was never content.
Within minutes, he had caught sight of his target: a red haired woman, clad in leather that exposed her fit body. Each of her hands was occupied with a dagger and wrapped around her thighs were throwing knives. She was fast and soon passed his hiding spot, as if she was blind to his presence in the trees. He began to run after her, but to his careless misfortune, met with one of her flyaway blades.
“She knows I’m around.” The assassin sighed to himself as he yanked out the blade. It had given him a deep stab to his left breast, rather close to his heart, but the assassin paid no attention to it. After all, since his life on the cold streets of Noxus, he had learned to endure anything.
The woman ran deeper into the woods and the assassin had lost sight of her, yet his intuition knew she was around somewhere. Trained to hear the almost inaudible sound of breathing, the assassin threw a barrage of daggers into a nearby bush, forcing the red haired woman to emerge from her hiding spot. She had caught a dagger between her fingers and tossed it back to the assassin.
"Great, you found me, now what?" she stared at him with marvelous green eyes and a sinister smirk.But, no matter how much his blade begged for the woman's blood, he knew he couldn't draw it.
“You're a rather useless training partner. Won't even try to finish me off?" Her voice had no hint of fear, as she assertively approached him. "You're letting my aim get very dull." With a gloved hand, she gave a hard pat to Talon's wound as he cringed in pain. It was only then he knew how severe the stab was.
"Katarina." the name itself boiled his blood.
Just because the girl was his master's favorite daughter, it didn't necessarily warrant a damn from Talon. It was only his loyalty and debt to General Marcus DuCouteau that prevented him from hurting her any further. Any less than that would've guaranteed her death by now. Simply, Talon thought, Katarina was on the good side of Noxian inequality - a brat raised by money. Even her training was purchased from elite assassins, some famed throughout Valorian..She was a proud and patriotic idiot of the state because her daddy, a general and member of the high council, would take care of it all for her as if it was just small bump in the road. All this, while people like Talon himself were on the streets starving and dying.
She lived a good life, but Talon was sure that she didn't deserve one bit of it.
Never once did she have to steal food; just for enough strength to endure the next gruesome day.
Never once did she have to crawl in sewers to escape angry merchants; only to be covered in cold filth for the rest of the night.
Never once did she have to fight to survive.
That lucky *****.
The muscles on Talon’s face became tense and his fist tightened as if her skull was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He could only dream of the day that Katarina’s blood could flow between his fingers.
"I don't need you to train, so why do you need me?"
Her pink lips uttered a small, cruel laugh. "Of course you do. You're just a dirty dog that my father found and felt bad for, " Her eyes daggered into his, showing no intimidation of his sudden anger. "Yet, you don't know any tricks. You're pretty much useless."
"Says the arrogant brat," he muttered. In a jolt of fury, Talon forcibly wrapped his arm around her stomach and hovered his blade over her left breast. At this point, he wanted more than revenge for the wound.
"Eventually, my blades will find their way into your heart."
Katarina gave off a smirk and playfully rubbed Talon's tense face. Despite the efforts of war thickening her skin, Talon had found her touch unexpectedly soft. He could feel the pulse of her blood from inside her palm and wisps of red hair tickled his chin. But in an abrupt movement, the body he had grabbed was standing quite a distance away from him – he had greatly underestimated her dexterity. Katarina turned back to him, letting out a sinister laugh. She was obviously pleased with his irritation.
Shunpo. He cursed to himself.
"If you insist, Talon."
Chapter 2: "Apologies"
"Well, I'm sorry daddy," Katarina's tone was full of sarcasm.
Eyes rolled as she followed a large, impressionable man up ornate marble stairs. Katarina's face was a semblance of his, though his face had been worn by age and the exhaustion of war. He donned a crimson cashmere coat that screamed wealth and decorated on the lapel were several military pins. Beneath the coat was a sword, tucked away in a matching crimson scabbard. He had an aura of confidence and authority that could easily stricken fear to those weaker than him. Despite this, those close to him could sense a warm, gentle center; a side almost unknown to the many foes he had ruthlessly killed during battle.
Any average citizen of Noxus would recognize him as General Marcus DuCouteau.
Though The General had loved all his daughters, Katarina was surely her father's favorite. As a young child, he trained and nurtured her natural taste for blood. In battle, they were a fatal combination: The General would distract foes with combat, while Kat focused on getting her knives into their critical points. It was their love of battle and the sweet taste of blood that strengthened their unorthodox familial bond.
"It is not I who you should apologize to," he frowned at his red-headed flower. "You are a DuCouteau. I thought you had more class than to do something like that, especially to our guest!"
Talon. Why her daddy had brought home a slum rat was beyond her understanding.
Katarina thought of him as a disruption of their close knit family life, and unworthy of her father's attention. To add insult to injury, her daddy had also offered him a room in the DuCouteau Manor. This meant that she'd have to eat dinner with him and bare his presence; to her, Talon was more pest than a guest.
"Then why are you protecting him? If he's your assassin, then why does he have to come crying to you when all he has is just a little boo-boo? True Noxian warriors are more prepared than he was!" Her persistence was unmatched, clearly trying her best to refute the punishment her father had.
"Kat, I personally approached him when I heard that he went to the infirmary for an almost fatal stab," His brow wrinkled. "..One that you caused." The general massaged his temples, obviously becoming annoyed.
They walked into a corridor and approached the first room. The general knocked on the door with the back of his fist.
Talon opened, and welcomed the general without hesitation. He was shirtless, revealing a heavily bandaged chest – thickest on the left side. His well-formed torso was also in full view, showing his better overall health since moving in with the DuCouteaus (save for Katarina, of course). He bowed to the general, purposely paying no attention to Katarina behind him.
Modestly decorated with luxury, the room was originally a medium sized guest room. It had a balcony of its own, with a view of the darker side of Noxus where Talon had once lived. Katarina noticed that the closet was left slightly open, showing a vibrant purple vest with a star shoulder pad. Behind it was a pair of worn out jeans. Out of spiteful curiosity, she had surveyed about 11 holes and patches on both items. Save for clothes, not much in the room belonged to him.
Perhaps that's his gypsy costume. She let out a lonesome laugh that the other two paid no attention to.
"Pardon my appearance sir," Talon's head bowed.
The general smiled and patted Talon's back to give him a sense of ease.
"Not a worry boy, though you must heal soon. I have a mission for you two." He took a seat as Talon listened intuitively.
"Recently, our soldiers had a battle with a Demacian camp located just north of the outskirts. Though the casualties were small on our side, they managed to take the life of Sir Sion. I want you both to infiltrate the camp and retrieve his remains, so we..." He paused to reconsider what he was going to say. "…We have plans for the body,".
"Accepted, sir" Talon replied with swiftness, disregarding what the general had originally intended to say.
"Your loyalty is unmatched, Talon," The general grinned. "and before we leave, Katarina has an apology for you."
They turned to Kat who had her arms crossed, and a look of severe indifference.
"I hope your nipple got cut off." She snarled.
Chapter 3: Corpses and Maggots
"Talon, you can distract them while I'll look for Sion's corpse. If you get in trouble, scream like a little ***** and I'll be there as fast as I can. "
A vexed stare was the best he could reply.
The night was fresh, with the moon wide awake over the pond they stood by. It was occasionally rippled by a hungry koi, thinking the moon to be food. The cold air that emanated from the water was enough to make leaves nearby whistle with the crickets. Other than those ambiences, the two were alone.
His redheaded partner looked to him with eyes lit up by passion. "Are you ready Talon?"
"This is no challenge," he assured, lifting up his blade.
Katarina's skin was laminated in moonlight, yet there was a vibrant flush of exhilaration. Her eyes closed, followed by deep, careful breaths that caused her chest to fluctuate. Suddenly, from under her signature blood-red hair, she drew out her sword and rehearsed its lethal movements. This was her ritual to awaken the killer, and Talon had the privilege of watching it.
It was clear that the thrill and rush of fighting a Demacian was already fueling her blood with excitement. Somehow this eagerness to fight made her quite radiant, Talon thought.
As despicable as she could get, he could respect a woman who had no fear of bloodshed. Especially one who could kill as precisely as she could - Talon was sure his own injury was a bluff. To top off her elite skills, she possessed such distracting beauty. As much as he could deny, he knew she was the perfect partner.
"Let the bloodshed begin."
The scent of smoke became strong as she moved deeper into the outskirts. It was a distance away, but Katarina had a sure guess of who it was; to camp out there would be unthinkable to most.
To her surprise, the camp only had two tents and at the center was a dwindling fire. There were no hints of anyone around, meaning that the occupants must have gone out to get supplies or food. Quietly, she entered the camp and approached the fire. There she saw a lone, bodiless head seated by the heat. Beside it were bone fragments, hinting that the other parts had been cremated in the flame. She grabbed the head by the hair and identified the ghostly face almost immediately– even in death, Sion had that creepy grin. The ground it had sat on revealed maggots, giving Katarina shivers of revulsion.
"Hmph. So apparently we lost a few soldiers to a duo of Demacians." She sighed, but was quickly interrupted by something quite sharp poking her back.
"Halt." A large voice boomed from behind her.
With the head in her hand, she took a step forward and examined what she could. Judging by his uniform, she concluded that he was a Demacian soldier, possibly of a very high rank. His body was of a large girth, almost triple of Katarina's size.
"What are you doing here?" he spoke again.
The solider moved closer to the fire, lighting him up from the shadows. He had a masculine yet handsome face that had grown a bit of stubble from camping. His bushy eyebrow rose at the sight of a red-headed beauty holding a corpse.
"And what's a pretty lady like you doing with that head? Are you a dark sorceress?"
She snickered, "Well, I just wanted my dead boyfriend back,".
"Oh that's a shame, but he's property of the Demacian military now, so just kiss him good-bye and please leave," he was unmoved.
Kat tossed the head off to the side and pulled her sword from its sheath.
"Then I'm just taking him away from you and…" She stopped to flick off a maggot that had found its way from Sion's head to her arm.
"DIGUSTING, little pieces of sh.."
His sword collided with hers, dropping it to the ground.
"That's why beautiful ladies like you shouldn't be playing with decomposing heads," he chuckled.
In a pinch, she jumped far behind him and grabbing her fallen sword in the process. As usual, she was prepared with her tactics.
"Bring it big boy," a sinister smile grew on her face.
Valiantly, he lifted up his sword and charged at her.
Katarina was rather swift in dodging his powerful swings, but in turn, the soldier was full of stamina and well armored, weakening her attacks. The two were rather evenly matched, to the point where the solider would set his sword down to breathe and Kat's movement had slowed significantly.
"GAAREENNN!" A panting, male voice came from the woods, running toward the camp.
"I told you idiot we stayed too long now those stupid Noxians…" He paused the rapid speech to look at the scene before him. His warning was too late.
"Xin!" The exhausted soldier shouted to his arriving comrade, signaling for help.
The other solder was a man of Asian descent, with long and thick black hair up in a ponytail. A bit smaller than Garen, he was also dressed in Demacian armor. He wielded a spear, decorated with the Demacian flag and pointed it to Katarina.
There's no way I can fight these two alone. Enough play time. She ran toward the fire to retrieve Sion's head then proceeded to escape. Fatigue was still afflicting her speed.
"DEMACIA!" Garen charged from behind causing her to run forward a bit more, to her mistake.
There was a sharp slice to her face then an impact of steel to the back of her head.
"Heartless Noxians. Don't even have any respect for their own dead," growled Xin.
With that, Katarina was out cold.
A huff of breath finally came, but through the smell of her own blood, Katarina knew that she was greatly injured. For some reason, her left eye would not open, causing her vision to be more distorted. She was able to make out men fighting nearby, though the details were a great blur.
The last thing she could remember was being carried away from the scene, by a pair of two strong arms.
Chapter 4: Comment Te Dire Adieu
In the home of DuCouteau, a strikingly beautiful woman sleeps.
She does not sleep out of fatigue, but rather despair; sleep is the remedy to keep her reality away. The life she had lived in consciousness was its own nightmare.
Her resting place is shrouded with curtains, and there seems to be no mirrors or any other sort of reflection. In the closets, hang shreds of once stunning garments and on the floor are scattered diamonds and pearls. There are signatures of fortune throughout, but only darkness and chaos dominate the room. This is just as she prefers.
But hard knock intrudes in her solitude.
“HSSSSSTTT” she shouts, rather menacingly. Her eyes dart open, focused on the accursed door.
The visitor is unnerved and enters regardless of her warning. The woman rises from her coiled position to examine her pest. But beyond her hourglass shape, where her legs should be, is the body of a scaly green snake. A forked tongue escapes her mouth as she continues to hiss.
From what she could see through the curtains, the intruding figure was actually comfortingly familiar to her: from his crimson garb, the military badges, and even his brooding steps. She ceased hissing and emotion began to engulf her once more, as tears began to roll from her cheeks and to her scales.
“Cassiopeia,” a large hand parted away the curtains that concealed her from the world.
“Daddy... Don’t look at me, please.” She sobbed, turning away from her father. This was the anxiety she felt whenever anyone would look at the beast she had become.
“You are my daughter, Cassiopeia, and you are beautiful.” A warm smile grew, his eyes becoming soft toward her.
Her father’s hand warmed her coldblooded face, wiping away her tears.
“Even your mother would be so proud of how beautiful and talented our daughters have become. I know she would be. ” he paused, tears ready to fall from his blue eyes. It was very uncharacteristic of him to be as vulnerable, though Cassiopeia knew that the subject was always touchy to their household.
“I have raised you to be strong, but Cass, listen to me. That time has come for you to be at your absolute strongest,” his voice began to quiver. “I’ve been summoned for a rather grave matter and I absolutely must depart.”
It was intimidating enough to Cassiopeia to hear of her father’s battle feats, but hearing his voice in such a weak, unconfident manner was unbearable.
“Then take Katarina and you guys can keep each other safe,” she wrapped her sharp fingers around his wrist, tears muffling her voice.
His head shook in denial, blue eyes watching her with remorse. “That would be a too dangerous for her, and she has other duties. I could not live with myself to risk her like that. You see, I do not guarantee my return. ”
Cassiopeia took silence, trying to savor the last moments she had with her father: his masculine features, the scars on his face, the truly kind hearted man amongst Noxian elites, and even the wedding band he wore so proudly each day. She finally let go of his wrist and slowed her tears. All this would soon be a devastating memory for her.
The General reached into an inner pocket inside his coat and pulled out a letter. “Should I not return, this will guide you and Katarina. Tell her I am sorry for all this.”
“Father do not go... please.”
He embraced her a final time and kissed her forehead. A teardrop had fallen from his face to hers.
“I love you and Katarina both, remember that,” the general took a final glance at his beloved daughter and turned to leave.
“I love you too daddy.”
Chapter 5: The Sleeping Beauty
“What have you done, Katarina?” A deep sigh filled Talon lungs with the sterile smell of the room.
Cautiously, he moved a strand of red hair away from the resting woman’s face. Instead of her usual impeccability, it revealed a deep scar on her left eye. His hand carefully moved down from her cheek to the top of her décolletage. He managed to detect a pulse, but it was far too faint for comfort.
He expected a punch or at least a snide remark, but her muscles remained still and her soft lips were almost devoid of color. Even their usual disputes would be enough to alleviate his worries at the very least. The bed she had slept on was not her own and on the table beside her were prescribed medicines to alleviate the pain. Weapons she usually carried were now in Talon’s possession, and her clothes had been washed and neatly folded by the nurses. In that cold, small hospital room was the first time he had seen her so weak and vulnerable.
Thinking back to the events of the earlier night, Talon had been nearby shadowing her, but instead he encountered Xin by chance. Cowardly, Xin had gone back to their camp to warn Garen of the attack. It was then that Katarina was forced to battle both Demacians. Unfortunately for her, she was too fatigued to escape and allowed herself to get cornered and struck down. She suffered several stabs and a large bruise to the back of her head, leading to a severe concussion. With no choice left, Talon revealed himself, his blade battling for the life of the very woman that he had detested so much.
Through the night, with the blooded, bruised woman in his arms and a corpse head dangling from his fingers, he had managed to stealthily escape the scene and return to Noxus.
Talon turned away from the bed and began to analyze the severity of her situation. It was almost pitiful how her own father had raised her to become the relentless killer she was, carelessly risking her to death each day. Although Marcus was a respectable man, only a Noxian would be low enough to do as such to their own blood. It was for reasons like this, Talon was glad to not have a family to fight for. To live off his blade for survival, and to die by it, was enough for him.
Talon turned back to the suffering woman. Katarina was obviously wordless, but she had a sad expression on her face, as if the pain was beginning to be too much. A tear had begun to form on her eye duct but never grew enough to fall. Talon was unsure why he had felt such pity for her just then, but pressed his hand on hers, quietly watching her steady breaths.
“Stay strong, I’ll come back for you.”
He arrived at the DuCouteau home, his heart already sunken by the news he’d have to give to the General. Though sympathetic, the general wouldn’t be happy with such news of his beloved daughter. It was a rare occasion whenever his master was displeased with him, but punishment would surely be in order.
Nonchalantly dangling the requested corpse head as he entered, Talon noticed a lack of activity in the household. Morning had quietly broken while he was with Katarina, so the maids should’ve begun cooking by this hour. Yet there seemed to be an inexplicable silence that dominated the home. Regardless of the maids’ incompetency, Talon didn’t seem in the mood for food and continued his way up the marble stairs.
He approached two large doors, engraved with the insignia of Noxus. The General’s personal office was at the center of the manor, and possibly its biggest room. Out of respect, Talon knocked before intruding. There was no answer. After a moment or so, Talon knocked again, but still to no reply. Was the General still asleep? It was unlikely; he usually rose before anyone else in the household. A further look revealed that the doors were slightly ajar and unlocked, something else rather suspicious. Ignoring his original manners, Talon allowed himself inside to investigate.
“Boy, what is your business here?” An unfamiliar voice startled him.
Talon turned to see a man, standing by DuCouteau’s desk. The man had a strange appearance; a medium sized man, probably older than the general. He was dressed in a green and gold uniform with a dominant, gold chest piece. Perched on his shoulder was an abnormally large crow, its feathers were unruly and its eyes directly looking at Talon. The man face was hard to make out through his face mask, but his red eyes had a look of hatred and disorder.
The man approached Talon, an obvious limp afflicting his walk. Looking closely, his right leg was obviously misshapen and required assistance through a cane.
“DuCouteau’s bailiff, are you not?” His voice was loud and regal.
Talon nodded his head, but not without a look of puzzlement on his face.
“Sir, this is the office of General Marcus..” The bird’s squall interrupted Talon.
“Have you not been informed yet? Your monsieur shall no longer need your services.”
Strange. Talon’s eyebrow rose in disbelief, but remained still in position
“I only take orders from General DuCouteau himself. Where is he?”
“Stubborn one, you are. Well long story short, he disappeared during a mission to the bazaar, and has yet to be located. ”
A mission? Talon’s mind played with the thought. Usually DuCouteau would have himself or Katarina shadow him during more riskier missions, though he had already sent out both the night before. This story was too peculiar for Talon’s tastes.
“Are you lying to me?” The crow squalled once more, flapping its wings as if it was disturbed.
“How obnoxious you are. Perhaps you’re a mentally challenged one. Do you not know who I am?!” The man’s face became red from shouting.
Talon shook his head in disagreement, almost intimidated.
“I am Jericho Swain, Master Tactician for the Noxian army. I am here on official matters boy, so I do not need your senseless interference!”
Another ****ing Noxian. Talon muttered to himself, his hand gripping on to Sion’s hair even harder.
“Where’s Katarina? She must know at once. ” Swain continued.
Talon’s uneasiness of her condition returned.
“She is unavailable right now. “ He quickly muttered, trying to hide his own incompetence.
Swain’s eyes locked deep into his.
“Then I trust you with the duty of informing her, as I have other matters with the upcoming Institute of War,” Swain said, as he limped toward the door. “I’m sure she will need to make the proper preparations, for the funeral.”
There was a strange chord in that Swain’s voice, something else that contradicted itself.
“My bird is hungry…” Swain said to himself as he walked out.
Chapter 6: The Blade & Her Shadow
“Please stop!” Katarina screamed from the top of her lungs.
The shadowed figure howled in laughter and his sword rose. As she lay helpless on the ground, her green eyes feebly watch the sword’s tip – soon it would penetrate her skin, her organs and her life.
“I DON’T WANNA DIE!!” The pleas became more desperate as she became closer, closer, and closer to demise.
But her words moved no one; with great force, the sword came down to her body to do the murderer’s will. The metallic taste of blood urged her taste buds, yet there was nothing she would’ve been able to do.
Helplessly she watched as the shadow impale her again, again, and again.
Her vital systems shut down as her organs were torn to shreds. But there was no end to the pain she felt. There was no end to the blood he drew. There was no end to the suffering. Katarina remained there; helplessly receiving each and every gruesome stab by the murderer.
This was her fate.
With a mouth full of blood, she could no longer scream. This was the end for her. Defeated and powerless, she finally began to cry. Peculiarly though, the tears were stinging to her left eye.
Katarina awoke to a foreign room, particularly one of a hospital. Detecting wetness on her eyes, she found that was crying in her sleep, probably because of the unpleasant nightmare. Using the bandaged fingers of her left hand, she began to wipe away the tears, only to discover that there was a deep cut on her left eye, irritated by her tears.
Finally becoming aware of her own battered and aching body, she remembered that she had been severely beaten up during the mission. She slowly recalled each and every one of her mistake that night, proving her ineffectiveness as an assassin, and as a disgrace to the DuCouteau name. It was an off-night with a bit of bad luck, but it worked entirely against her. An exasperated sigh escaped, a bit disappointed that the Demacians were not able to finish the job, for her sake.
“So finally you’re awake.” A voice responded to her breath.
A purple cloaked man slowly approached her bedside. A nearby couch was left with his bodily imprint, signifying that he had been in the room for quite a while. Katarina knew exactly who it was, much to her displeasure, but decided that it was better than re-living her nightmare again. He took off his hood revealing his messy brown hair and eyes lined with stress and fatigue.
“Talon, nice of you to visit.” She said with her casually sarcastic voice.
“Are you feeling better?” Talon frowned, trying to hide his worry.
“No. But did you rape me in my sleep?” Katarina crossed her arms and looked up to him.
“I tried, but you started crying and I got turned off.” He wittily replied.
His faced eased as he gazed at hers: Green eyes freshened from sleep yet reddened by tears. After being asleep for so long, it was almost relieving to Talon to see her face so flushed with pink. They watched each other in somber silence until Katarina interrupted.
“What, is that wound on my face that big or are you just in love with me now?”
Talon looked down to break his daze, “Kat, enough jokes”, the timbre of his voice becoming solemn.
“Fine, I’m listening,” She stood up from her bed, her back finally cracking for the first time in days.
“Your father,” he paused to glance back up to her, “He’s gone.”
“He’s been missing for the past week and Swain even suggests you should begin funer..”
“What happened?” Katarina demanded, as she returned him a glare.
“I…I don’t know much myself.”
“I don’t believe such lies about my father!” She growled in disbelief as she unhooked herself from the medical equipment.
“Calm down Katarina. You’re still pretty weak…”
In a quick jump, she got behind him, slightly stumbling in her land. Despite her physical capabilities, her legs were still weakened and sore from sleep.
“Katarina, don’t do this!” Talon tried to grab her, yet her dexterity was still intact. The woman was already toward the open window by the time he could react.
“Like you say Talon, I take orders from no one.” She said, as she leapt down the 5-story hospital.
Talon watched the sky turn dark on his way back home, as he finally gave up hopes of Katarina returning to the hospital for her injuries. Activity in the DuCouteau manor had drastically decreased and most servants of DuCouteau family were put on leave. The only occupants of the home were Cassiopeia and himself, but even she rarely came out. It was a bit reminiscent of Talon’s old life, living alone for so long.
As he headed to his own room, a loud shatter of glass emitted from DuCouteau’s office, echoing far enough to reach the bottom of the marble stairs. Hurriedly, Talon ran up the stairs and to the double doors of the office. If it was Swain again, Talon would not be merciful. Gripping the handle, and a dagger in his other hand, Talon pulled apart the doors.
“Get out or you get to die.” A woman’s voice threatened him.
Katarina stood on the opposite side of the room, glaring straight at him. Trails of dried tears had grazed her cheeks and she seemed to be leaning on her father’s desk. Right by her, a glass light stand had been accidentally knocked over, leaving the room rather dim. Ignoring the threat, Talon carefully entered the room, closing the door behind him. The dagger he had prepared returned to his pocket.
“Why do you keep bothering me? Do you have any other ****ty news to ruin my ****ing life?” She shouted.
“You weren’t supposed to leave the hospital yet, you know.” He calmly replied.
Talon watched Katarina who still stood at the same spot, peculiarly not attacking him at all; even without weapons, she still had a fierce kick. He took a few steps forward, causing her to back up closer to the room’s corner. But rather than taking steps, she seemed to hobble, avoiding pressure on her right foot. By her movement, Talon understood; her foot had been sprained by the hospital escape.
“Well, you got yourself hurt even more now.” He noted to her. “And you probably strained it more by walking all the way here without help.”
“Will you just stop being so infuriating and leave me alone?” She lowered her head, causing her red hair to cascade and cover her face.
Talon’s brow wrinkled in disgust. “If you learn to take care of yourself woman, then maybe I don’t have to come to your rescue all the time. You’re quite welcomed for that night.”
Katarina’s eyes began to water. A drop fell from her left eye, irritating the still-fresh cut. It became clear to her why her father had decided to bring Talon home; he fit the standards of a DuCouteau more than she ever did. Because of this stupid slum rat, she was still alive but grateful was opposite of what she felt.
“Why didn’t you just leave me there, to die?” Her voice lacked her usual confidence and trembled.
“Katarina, don’t think like that.”
“Why does this matter at all to you? You’re free now, aren’t you? So just go.”
Talon had never really thought of leaving or even life beyond DuCouteau’s apprenticeship. His service to the general had surprisingly caused Talon to gain immense respect for the man. There had never been a thought to betray him or his family. But Katarina was right, because of DuCouteau’s disappearance, he was no longer bound to service. He paused and glanced back to Katarina, who was barely able to support herself standing up.
“There’s something I still have to do for him," he finally answered.
“You don’t have to. He’s...gone,” her voice had become hoarse and dry.
Talon saw how much it pained her to say it, as her bandaged fingers rubbed away the tears. It was clear she could not bear the loss. The times with her father were now memories, and there were no clear reasons for the disappearance. Her body was before him suffering, yet he knew her mind was already lost in despair.
“He’s dead.” She whispered, as she became wrapped and terrified by grief. Her mind paced with negative thoughts. “I never got to see him one last time, Talon.”
Without a word, he grabbed her waist and embraced her. Unsure whether he had done so because of exhaustion or another reason, but in his arms right now was Katarina. Her tear soaked face was pressed to his chest, but it made no matter. His heartbeat became faster with the warmth of her body, and he was sure that he felt hers.
After a moment, he pulled away and wiped her face. Her reddened and watered eyes reached up to his, almost stunned. She remained quiet, though her lips began to quiver, as if something had finally reached her mind throughout the clutter. The two had never interacted in such a passionate manner, yet something seemed so right. In his arms somehow, Katarina had a sense of security, as if there was no room for the rest of the world in that moment. No one could invade on their intimacy. It had been such a long, long time since she had felt this safe.
“Talon.” A weak whisper escaped from her mouth.
Somehow through all her tears that night, came a sincere smile. Talon’s own mouth matched hers. It was rare for him smile, but he did, just for her. Cautiously, her left hand reached out for his right, both careful in movement. Their fingers intertwined and locked, in each other’s warm safety. Words had completely ceased, as the two assassins savored the moment.
At that moment, Talon could have ran. He could have taken his things and left, with his duty to general DuCouteau complete. But instead that moment on, Talon knew he would not reclaim his freedom.
Not out of necessity, but for Katarina.
Chapter 7: Nuit Blanche
“Two birds shot with one stone. Boram and Marcus, may they both rest in eternal hell.”
A couple talk amongst themselves in the darkness that Noxus had made its trademark. The slums of Noxus were most notorious for this, being naturally shadowed from the sun by the suburbs. The cobblestone ground below them had been riddled with cracks and litter, and the air that surrounds them make the neighborhood uninhabitable. Their only desire to be here is to meet in secrecy, avoiding the inquisitive eyes of others.
The man’s eyes occasionally drift away from the tall, lean woman before him, as if he were watching out for an intruder. They prove potent enough, as he drives a wooden stick through the small body of a passing rat. It excretes a small scream as its blood to gushes to the wall, fouling the air even more.
“But what do we do about DuCouteau’s eldest daughter? Not to mention that she was there that night. She’s a living witness to everything,” the woman said, rubbing her bicep. She looks away from her partner’s sharp glance. “That’s our biggest mistake. We should’ve taken care of her long before she made a name for herself. “
The man chuckled at her concerns, turning away from the rodent murder scene.
“Well don’t worry my sweet, I know exactly what to do with her,” the man said, as he took the woman’s polished hand into his and pressed against his lips.
“We will have Vengeance. We will rise again.”
Katarina reclined on her bed, bored as she watched the clock.
She had managed rest for a few hours, but could not bring herself back to bed. It wasn’t out of pain or anything like that, but rather by the recent events. The fact her father was now gone echoed throughout her mind, and she still had a hard time believing it. The reality of grief was as fresh as her wounds, but she knew which pain plagued her more.
Then there was Talon.
Something about him that night had swirled her with questions.
Why did he willingly thrust himself back into service for DuCouteau, even in his absence? He was free, yet like a behaved dog waiting for his master at the train station, he stayed put with a wagging tail.
What caused the drastic change in him? Never once before had he cared for or even remotely liked Katarina. Yet now he was saving her life and had even stayed by her side in the hospital. The biggest change, however, had come in the form of last night's embrace. It felt as if he wanted to bundle up and take away all of her misery, as if it were his only purpose.
Throughout so many years detesting each other, there really couldn’t be feelings… could there? Katarina closed her eyes and her mind continued to wander.
Something in her had an insatiable urge to see Talon. As if her skin thirsted for the touch and comfort she had in those arms. Her eyes turned back to the clock, hoping that he’d be awake by now and coming by to check up on her.
Her green eyes rolled.
“Well I could always go down the hall...” Katarina thought to herself, as she slid off of her bed and headed toward the door.
It was a slow struggle to get to the room. Just few weeks ago, she had been dragged to this side of the manor against her will. Now she willingly dragged herself over, even with a sprained ankle.
Katarina contemplated the mahogany door, not quite ready to knock. She became insecure of his reaction, if he would see her at the door like this.
“If you learn to take care of yourself woman, then maybe I don’t have to come to your rescue all the time.”
Talon’s words from last night echoed in her ears. He meant them, even if he did have some sort of pity for her. It was not fair to burden him again with her troubles and there was no good excuse to wake him up in the early morning. She wasn’t her father and she had no business to be there. It was a foolish mistake on her part to believe fantasies that played in her head.
Katarina concluded that it was best to return back to her room, but not before passing by another bedroom.
In a dimly lit room of the DuCouteau Manor, a woman sleeps.
There are footsteps outside the door, awakening her from her coiled sleep. But rather than going inside, they pass right by. Cassiopeia breathed a sigh of relief before setting her head back down.
The door to her room has become a bad omen, particularly with her last two visitors: her father’s final goodbyes, and a foolish soldier full-heartedly confirming his demise. The poor boy’s blood was still scattered across her tiled floor. It now sickened her to hear any sort of movement by the accursed door. It couldn’t get worse, Cassiopeia thought, but she was not willing to bet.
The footsteps come back toward her door, but this time they stop for a moment. A cold shiver trickles down from her spine to her tail, as she thinks of the terror of someone popping their head into her sanctuary. To her dismay, the visitor disregarded her desire for solitude and turned the knob.
"Cassiopeia, I’m coming in whether you like it or not. ”
The snake-woman watched as her older sister’s body swayed toward her. There was a small inexplicable limp, but Katarina’s walk seemed to disacknowledge it.
When Cassiopeia still had her whole body, it was no competition between the two. She had known her physical and aesthetic beauty had far surpassed Katarina’s. But now, she could only watch her sister and her two legs with envy and hatred.
“What do you want, harlot?” She hissed.
“Cass, you’re probably more of a **** than I’ll ever be. Oh wait; you don’t even have legs anymore. ” Katarina rolled her eyes.
Cassiopeia bared her venomous fangs toward her sister. To claw out those wretched green eyes of hers would be an excellent addition to the soldier’s blood.
"At least be nice to me. We’re all that’s left of our family now.” Katarina took a seat on the edge of the bed.
“Then how can I honor your boorish visit, beloved sister?” said Cass, with her smooth, hard tail curling around her sister’s neck.
“Tell me how father left.” Katarina replied, unfazed by the growing constriction of the tail.
“I don’t want to go over the details, but he left for a mission, and was sure he couldn’t come back. “
Cassiopeia dropped her tail with a sigh and reached under the pillow, pulling out the crumpled letter that their father given them.
“He said this would guide us, but I honestly don’t know what any of it means.”
Katarina took it into her bandaged hands and examined it. The wax seal had been smeared by Cassiopeia’s pillow and had been broken long before. The letter was written in ink, red as her own hair and neatly printed on beige stationary.
Transcendence Way, the Ivory Ward, 5:00 PM. But rather a signature, it had been stamped with a black rose.
“Cassiopeia, is this the only thing he left us?”
The snake woman nodded solemnly.
Though Katarina could not recognize the insignia of the rose, the address was vaguely familiar.
Chapter 8: Breaking the Silence
In the home of DuCouteau, two assassins quietly consume their warm supper together. The thought of the pair willingly spending time together was once unspeakable, yet now they choose to live cohabitively, never once pulling a blade to threaten the other. Outside the windows was pitch black, darkening most of the dining room. Across the elongated dinner table, there seems to be a chase of eyes, as green catches a brown glimpse and vice versa. But neither of them was willing to admit the act.
“How did your talks with the High Command go?” Talon asked, finally breaking the silence.
Green eyes caught an excuse to look at her partner, a tall candle separating them. Though the room was dim, the small steady light revealed his masculine face, his lips pressed tight as he waited for her answer. His hood was down, something he had recently taking to doing in her presence. Katarina liked the change, perhaps even thinking it a bit comforting yet handsome. She continued to ponder the many lines of his illuminated face before answering his question.
“They wanted discuss more of father’s assets that he left behind. That sort of thing,” she replied but seemed rather distracted in her answer.
It had been about a month since General DuCouteau’s disappearance, and the subject had only recently faded from local newspapers. In his absence, Katarina had been rather busy taking over her father’s responsibilities.
“Ah, more legal matters,” he said before a spoon of soup entered his mouth. “Was that all?”
“I heard things from the investigation too, like his pocket watch was broken at 5:00, meaning it had happened around then. Also, witnesses reported a scuffle but they still haven’t found any bodily traces, not even a strand of hair. I think the ****s that did it probably had magic involved,” her voice becoming a bit hateful.
“Don’t torture yourself over the details. It’s not fair that they should keep you around the whole day to hear that sort of thing about your own father.”
“Well Swain asked me a favor as well. “ Katarina watched Talon’s ever attentive face flicker through the candle. “High Command wants me to become fully involved in Valoran’s Institute of War; to become a champion and fight in the honor of Noxus.”
“Honor? That’s non-existent around here,” he less-than politely remarked. “You can try to get rid of the stain, but the smell will always be there.”
“Talon, keep your foolish assumptions to yourself. Anyhow, they’re expecting me to leave within the next few days so I can get settled in before my first big match.” she replied, stirring her own food.
There was a long pause between them but Katarina continued her meal. As she looked back up toward the candle, Talon had a piercing gaze.
“Is it absolutely necessary for you to go?” he asked.
“If they come to Noxus, it’ll be a regular war, wouldn’t it?”
“Then don’t go. It’s not worth it,” he continued to insist.
She set down her spoon and watched him. “Talon, I’ve honestly been getting bored with this over-extensive call for peace. A change in pace is exactly what I need, especially to keep my mind off Daddy. I can’t stay here hoping he’ll one day pop in for dinner.”
For awhile now, Talon’s own bowl of soup had been left alone. The purple cloaked assassin remained still and reflective in his seat. Katarina tried to read the creases of his face, but he seemed to be expressionless.
“If you’d like, you can come to my induction as a champion. It would be nice to have a date, and you can come back here right after. ”
“Social events aren’t my thing Kat.” Abruptly, he stood up and turned away from her. “Enjoy the rest of your dinner.” His voice sulked as he headed straight for the hall.
Katarina remained in her chair, unsure of what had just happened.
“Hmph, rude as always.”
Katarina’s room had become scattered with her belongings and a few large chests for her luggage. Though, unlike other women packing for a trip, she seemed to have an excess of weapons instead of shoes. Every so often, she would pick up a sword and smiled at the thought of impaling it into someone.
The league was the perfect opportunity for her. She needed to find the old Katarina, the one who feared nothing. The one who was known and admired by the people of Noxus. The one who would not be beaten to the ground, awaiting death. She understood why she could not rely entirely on Talon. He had his own life, and she was just getting in the way of his freedom. Despite her own growing emotions, she figured it better to become independent of Talon’s protection.
Cassiopeia spread herself around her sister’s couch, watching as Kat folded her clothes. “You don’t even deserve to go to such parties. You never have anything nice to wear,“ she bemoaned.
“I still don’t understand why you’re here, Cassiopeia.” Katarina glared at her sister as she slammed a chest. “And it’s my induction as a Champion, not a party.”
“Well, if you pay me an unwanted visit, so I do the same for you. Is that boy packing as well?” Cassiopeia asked.
The snake woman nodded, tying her tail around the leg of the couch.
“Of course not...Well, he declined.” Katarina sighed.
“Well you better hope I don’t pull him from under your nose while you’re gone. “
“Seriously Cass, there is nothing happening between us. “
“Well, with clothes like that of course he won’t want to.”
“You think?” Katarina said inadvertently, as she begun polishing a dagger.
Her eyes widened by the slip of words, causing her to accidentally cut her finger. Cassiopeia had triumphant look on her face as she finally toppled her cherry fleshed sister in wit.
“But ss--sister,” her forked tongue wiggled playfully. “I’ve been reading a lot of Chinese Horoscopes in my spare time. Apparently your best match is the ever loyal Dog.“
“Stop it Cass,” the games that she played with her sister no longer amused her.
A hard, scaly tail wrapped around Katarina’s waist and tickled her sides. “I think I know one who might match you, Ms. Tiger. Perhaps, quite perfectly. ” She sneered.
“You are my darling sister, but you know that such fantasies do not faze me.” Katarina shook off her sister’s grip.
“What’s that phrase you always say?” a grin grew on the serpentine woman’s face. “If you insist.”
Katarina remained mum as she continued packing.
Talon stood still by his window, watching outside as a carriage arrived to the front of the manor.
Today was the day that Katarina was set to leave. A day he had not been looking forward to.
It wasn’t fair, after finally learning how to care for Katarina that she would leave him like this. Within the time span of the last few weeks, he had realized how attached he had become to her.
There hadn’t been a day when he could not recall her, so warm in his arms that night. That beautiful, genuine smile he had never seen before on her pink lips. He craved for that feeling again, to be there for her, and her for him. To be in each other’s company regardless of the world around them. To care so much for each other, regardless of the past. Perhaps, this was what a real family was like, Talon thought. Perhaps, it was love.
As foreign as he was to the feeling, Talon knew he didn’t want to let it go. Hoping to speak to her one last time, he made his way down the marble stairs. As expected, she was already outside, watching her things be loaded on.
“Have you packed everything?” he said as he approached her side.
“I suppose. Anything I forgot, I could always find there. But I have my favorite daggers, for sure.” She smirked.
Again she had that natural eagerness, the call for battle singing her name and adrenaline flowing through her blood. But this time, it only served to further bring down Talon’s mood. He looked back the carriage and the servants had finished loading her things. Taking a deep breath, Katarina turned to her partner, a small smile on her face.
“Talon, thanks for taking care of me. I… I’ve gotta go now,” yet through the sound of her voice, she seemed to be leaving out thoughts.
But unlike her, Talon’s words could not even pass his lips. If there was anything that could stop her from going now, he had to figure it out then. If there was anything that he could do, just to preserve her in the moment.
Suddenly, he reached out for her hand, curling his fingers around her palm. A look of confusion formed on her face.
“Katarina, why are you going?” he finally blurted out.
“I need to go. It’s what is best for me right now. ” She shook off his grip and stepped away from him.
“Then why are you leaving me?” he mumbled, tears beginning to form.
Watching his sad brown eyes, Katarina had realized what was happening as her own eyes began to reflect the notion. “Sorry is all I can say Talon.”
They quietly stood, both trying to drown the effects of their feelings. The ones that had grown so obscurely and unexpectedly after so many years of being so different and disconnected; only to find out that all they had needed was each other.
But Talon could no longer control those feelings.
With his right hand, Talon brushed away the red hair from Katarina’s face and stroked her cheek. Even with the scar, he had still found her immaculately beautiful. Slowly, he moved his head closer to hers and pressed his lips tenderly on her soft lips. He shut his eyes and wrapped his other arm around her small body, holding her as close as he could; trying desperately to keep her from going away. As he released her from his grip, Katarina’s hand had found its way back to his, her eyes becoming red from tears.
Yet it was not enough to make her stay. Letting go of his hand, Katarina made her way to the awaiting carriage. But as she boarded, her green eyes once again met with his, rather longingly. In moments, the carriage had begun moving away from the Du Couteau Manor and toward her destination.
Talon stood still at the same spot as he tearfully watched his world leave the dim, despaired land of Noxus.
Chapter 9: The Stray Dog
Several years prior.
Walking around the suburbs, a young Noxian man felt a rather out of place. Judging by his tattered clothes and frayed shoes, he doesn't seem to be a resident of the area, which catered to Noxus elites as a place to put indulge in their vast wealth. He fiddled around his vest pocket, making sure he had his "insurance"; a curved dagger he had prepared before visiting the man who spared him his life a few nights ago. Though his assailant was merciful, the young man knew better than to trust any Noxian.
After almost an hour of searching for the right place, he came upon a manor with the name 'Du Couteau' elegantly embossed on the gate. He lifted a hand to knock on the door, though the motion was useless, as it was immediately answered by the very man who had pinned him down with his blade.
"So you actually came." The man said as he opened the door. The younger man looked around, a bit marveled by home's luxurious interior. A grand chandelier had dangled over his head while glossy marble stairs connected the entire home. Also, there was the rare scent of warm food, dominating the bottom floor. Nothing was familiar from his own makeshift home in the slums. He followed his host up the stairs and into an office at the center of it all.
“Go ahead, take a seat.” The older man signaled him to a nearby leather couch. He took a seat, a bit overwhelmed by his grumbling stomach and the smell of good food.
"We should properly introduce ourselves, before we get any business done. I am Marcus Du Couteau. I am a member of the High Command and a head general of The Noxus Military. What is your name?"
The younger man was hesitant in his answer. The only name he could associate to himself was by a nickname that his ex-friend had given him; the ex-friend whose body was now lying in a gutter, after their botched plan left them hungry another night. It was another reason why he had found it so hard to trust others.
"I was never formally given a name, but I can be called Talon." He had gotten the name by the way he would steal food from the market: sharp eyed and ever swift, like a hawk.
"No real name? That's strange. I assume you don't have parents or family. "
"That's because the strong rely on no one but themselves. If my family was still around, they would surely be in my way."
Du Couteau remained quiet, leaning on his desk. Juxtaposing Talon, he was dressed in a regal crimson uniform, detailed with military badges on his arms. Attached to his belt was crimson scabbard, holding the very same blade that almost ended Talon’s life. Talon remembered that blade well; sharp and precise unlike any other weapon he had handled before.
"You don't have a real home, do you?"
Talon nodded a yes.
“Well, here’s my offer: I’d like for you to join the Noxus Military. I’ll arrange for you to start out high, and even get a nice clean room for you…”
"I refuse." Talon immediately replied. "In fact, I'd rather that you would just kill me now before I join that treacherous organization."
“You feel that strongly about us?” The general crossed his arms, and paused.“Then how about you work for me personally? I’ll give you a room here in my place, if it’s no inconvenience to you.”
Talon's eyebrow wrinkled, "Don't you think that's a bit foolish? You've just met me, andnow you're inviting me to come live with you."
"If I can defeat you once, I'm sure I could do it again. Besides, I can tell you're pretty talented. It would be a waste to let you go." Du Couteau smiled, despite his threat.
Talon remembered the night he had been pinned and caught by this man. He was caught off-guard, and after a struggle, his own weapons were unreachable. Within minutes of the ambush, Du Couteau’s blade was already touching his throat. How Du Couteau managed to do so still puzzled Talon up to the moment.
"If it doesn't offend you, may I ask for your secret as to how you defeated me? Your strategies were quite sophisticated and the quality of your weapons has far… " A raised hand signaled for Talon to stop.
"I don't intend on attacking you a second time, so you don't need to prepare. After all, you've already proven yourself to be trustworthy by being here today and keeping your promise to me that night. I believe that's enough."
Had this man not seen how deceitful Noxus was? Talon thought. Someway, somehow, Du Couteau was different from the rest. He was naďve of this world and didn’t seem to have an unquenchable thirst for blood. Yet, this man was a general and held a position in the Noxian High Command. This made Du Couteau became more and more peculiar by the minute.
Through the corner of his eye, Talon noticed a large portrait above the couch, portraying what appeared to be General Du Couteau's family. Hewas suited in a more formal uniform and dominated the left side of the photo. Judging by the growth of grey hair since the photo, Talon assumed that the portrait was quite dated. Beside him in the photograph was a small but impressionable woman, with bright green eyes. Their hands were intertwined, though the detail seemed to be hidden behind two girls, presumably their daughters.
"Is that your wife?"
The general turned to the portrait, as his lips let out a small smile.
"Yes, the mother of my two beautiful daughters." He paused. "You sort of remind me of her."
"She came from a poor, indebted family, and I was sent to assassinate her by my commander at the time. Like you, she was pretty strong."
"So is she the only person that has actually defeated you? She doesn't look much like a fighter. " Talon observed.
"You can say she did, but you are right about her not being an actual fighter. Rather, she was very strong willed and ended up resisting my assaults each time. I don't know how, but she has taught me a lot since I've met her."
"That wasn't a good reason to let her live." Talon winced.
The general smiled, though unlike before it seemed to be forced. "Love is like a dagger, coming at you from nowhere. Once you let it hit you, you're trapped."
Talon shifted his eyes to the young girls, particularly the one with red hair. She had taken her mother's green eyes and seemed to be staring directly at Talon. Out of the two, she seemed older and less decorated with jewelry than the younger sister beside her. Yet she still possessed a natural beauty that had intrigued Talon, until he was interrupted by the general.
"You will meet my elder daughter Katarina soon. You won't have to take orders from her, but I intend to pair you with her during dangerous missions, so you can shadow each other." He paused, the smile becoming weaker. "I'd be completely shattered to lose her next."
"Well, I don't think even I want to take your offer sir. After all, there is no purpose as to why I should fight for the very same city-state that has betrayed people like me. They all expect us just to curl up and die, but instead we're out there suffering, death being a promotion."
The smile faded from Du Couteau’s face. “Talon, you seem like a good kid. A past like yours isn’t easy at all to overcome. So let me tell you this, about that “secret” you asked me earlier. A fighter who fights for his heart is the one who truly wins, regardless of the of the battle's outcome. Your victory will never be as sweet, and yet defeat will only strengthen you further.”
He detached his scabbard from his belt, and placed it on the table before Talon. There was no other place to conceal a weapon on his heavy uniform, and Talon was sure he didn’t place any other weapons around the room.
“I haven’t betrayed you now, and nor do I ever intend to.”
The general was right. Talon still had his grasp on his life, and instead of taking it away, the general offered something better. His only real possessions were tattered clothes, dull weapons and a constantly starving stomach. The offer began to seem like a more viable option. Perhaps, he could truly learn something special from the general. Something he could not learn from being always alone.
"I have one sole condition before I take your offer, General." Talon raised the dagger he had prepared earlier and placed it on the table beside Du Couteau's sword. "I will listen to your orders, but I refuse all others."
Katarina had fallen asleep, but a shriek awoke her. The scar under left eye was gone, and she was several years younger. Holding one of her father's swords in her right hand, a body was spilling blood below her. It dampened her socks and soaked her toes.
Though it was not the notion of killing someone that had terrified her; instead it was watching her mother, only moments before her eternal sleep. Katarina had recalled this scene many times before in her nightmares. The mother Du Couteau seemed to be mouthing words out of her final strength. But instead of the sorrowful words that Katarina had remembered, she muttered something different.
Why do you want to join the league, Katarina?
"I want revenge for my family. I need to find strength."
Katarina continued to watch her mother's sad eyes, the exact same aquamarine green as her own. It only took a moment until they had shut for good.
How does it feel, to expose you like this?
"Don't test your luck, summoner." A small knife from her pocket escaped from her belt and landed dead point on the summoner's throat.
Wiping away a small tear, Katarina opened the doors that lead her to the league.
Talon stretched on his bed, a frown uniformed to his face. It was days like these Talon saw no reason to get up, though it got more and more frequent, the longer that Katarina had been gone. Light was peeking through the curtains, yet he preferred to leave it shut. After all, right outside his window was the spot where she had left him in a standstill, several months ago. Loneliness was once his closest friend, but now his only thought was keeping it away.
Chatter echoed through the hallway he shared with other servants of the DuCouteau family. Though the staff had decreased significantly, the amount of noise they were making sparked his interest. He put on his purple cloak, propped his hood over his messy brown hair, and walked toward the racket. Just outside his door, two maids were huddled around a newspaper, wide eyed by its contents.
"My god, really? What's been going on out there!" exclaimed one.
"May I see the paper when you are done?" Talon approached the duo, who seemed too distracted to notice him coming out his room.
"Sure thing." The maid holding the newspaper folded it back to the front page and handed it to Talon. In bold, vibrant print the words read:
Grand General Boram Darkwill Murdered; Noxian High Command in a state of chaos.
"Don't you think it's odd though?" The two maids continued their conversation as Talon glanced over the newspaper's details.
"Maybe, the time frame wasn't that much."
“Yeah, and I’m sure lot of people are pretty envious of Master Du Couteau.”
"Is that so? Sorry, I don't normally divulge much into politics." Talon intruded into the conversation, intrigued by their possible theory.
"Essentially, General Du Couteau and Darkwill were pretty close comrades. They were so close that Boram chose him as his successor, over his own son Keiran. But of course, since Master DuCouteau's disappearance, Boram had no time to call for another successor."
"It's anyone's game now." The other maid concluded.
Talon's eyes widened, a concerned look on his face. "Thank you ladies,"
In a huff, he made his way toward the general's old office, as if time was against him.
Chapter 10: A Welcome Fit for a Noxian
“My dear girl, your father would be so proud.” Swain said, as he pressed his lips on the fair skin of Katarina’s hand. “All of Noxus would be proud.”
He looked up at Katarina, who seemed less enthusiastic about the event. A strapless green gown fit well against her skin and the few jewels that she owned were dangling off her wrists. But despite her sophisticated apparel, her skin appeared paler than usual and her long red hair seemed a bit unkempt and frayed, as if she had forcibly rushed through it with a hairbrush. Even her green eyes were plagued with eye bags that pronounced her scar.
“Thank you, General Swain.” She gave him little eye contact, and let out a small yawn. “Forgive me; I haven’t been able to sleep much lately.”
“Well, don’t you worry about your father. I assure you that High Command is handling the case with its utmost care. But now is your time to be an example of Noxian Excellence. We are forever strong, Katarina.”
He led her away from her personal suite in the institution and into the lobby of the banquet hall. Earlier that day, the sounds of guests had vibrated the halls, but now the foyer was mostly empty with the exception of a few guards.
“General, will you be staying long enough for the party?” Katarina asked, a bit intimidated by the hall’s grand doors.
“Only for little awhile, I must regret. I still have important matters in Noxus.”
Using his cane, Swain signaled to the guards, who promptly pulled the doors apart. The bright, decorated hall began to reveal itself, allowing the chattering sound of the crowd to spill into the once quiet foyer. Swain hobbled forward, though Katarina was hesitant in her motion.
“Go on, Katarina. Victory awaits.” He assured her.
From the head of the hall, a woman dressed in summoner robes began an announcement.
“Citizens of Valorian, it is my pleasure to welcome our guest of honor and newest champion, Miss Katarina Du Couteau of Noxus!”
But their only welcome was a menacing glare from the majority of the crowd. Judging by the organization of military uniforms, most of the tables had been organized by city state. Ionia was nearest to the door beside them was Freljord. Though the latter had the only winter weather in Valoran, both tables had no problem shooting their icy glares. On the other side of the hall was Demacia, with its crown prince Jarvan IV, sitting at the center. His angered stare wasn’t directed toward Katarina, but rather the limping general beside her. Swain paid no attention to this detail as he autonomously headed toward the Noxus table on the very far left, rather isolated from the rest.
“Don’t mind them.” He whispered to her, as they took a seat with the other Noxians. “A Noxian does not Dawdle.”
The other guests had begun to mingle, though Katarina remained at the Noxian table, rather disengaged. She felt nothing like a guest of honor. All around, people avoided her, including her fellow Noxians. Swain had gone to talk to High Councilors in the front, leaving her rather alone at the table.
"I don't know how Cassiopeia loves such events." She sighed and took a sip out of her wine glass, then turned to a nearby clock. Barely an hour had passed, but she had already ranked this night amongst one of her worst. Taking her things and ignoring the meddlesome stares of others, she made her way back to the foyer. As she was walking out, she felt footsteps following her own. Katarina had separated herself from the banquet hall, though the footsteps continued nearby.
From behind, a man called out to her, “Wuju like if I take your coat miss?”
“I don’t have a coat.”Katarina raised a brow. “…and don’t you mean, ‘would you’?” She turned around to see a peculiar man, with a rather bizarre appearance; he had goggles fit for a 7 eyed monster and he was holding an odd green and white sword over his head.
“Oh that’s right. Noxians are better off freezing in hell.” The man raised his sword, and all 7 eyes of the goggles were focused on her. “Your death will only redeem only one out of the millions that Noxus has killed in Ionia.”
Through the doors they had just past, a familiar face bursted into the scene: The same Demacian that Katarina had met in the forest.
“Lovely, Mr. Demacian Steroid Pecs.” Katarina knelt down, and pulled out a dagger hidden beneath her dress. Carefully she watched both characters, ready to attack. She had done absolutely nothing to these people, yet she was already getting targeted for being a Noxian. Though of course, she was always willing to fight any stupid Ionian or Demacian.
The Demacian stepped between them and glared at the goggled man. He had no weapon, and was dressed in a suit, custom tailored for his unique frame. His hair had been washed and perfectly parted at the center, while his scruffy, masculine face had been groomed just for the event.
“Master Yi, control yourself. You are the master of Wuju and to fight her in this manner would not only be a shame for you, but also Ionia. Shouldn’t you know the rules of the League by now?”
The goggled man stood down, sliding his sword back into its sheath. “You’re too soft sometimes Garen. But maybe one day you’ll realize the horrors of Noxus in your own motherland. Then you too, will have enough of them. ” Without any other word, he retreated back into the banquet hall.
“I could’ve killed him in minutes, mind you.” Katarina bended back down and strapped the dagger back on her leg. “Last time was a fluke, and you know that.” The Demacian was still watching her when she looked back up.
“You look…uh, very nice.” He gave a shy smile, as his eyes followed each curve of Katarina’s body. Upon reaching her face they became wide. “That scar. Did I cause that?”
“Yes. You and your little friend also put me out cold for about a week.” Katarina stood up and turned away from him. “Now, if you don’t plan on attacking me as well, I want to leave.”
“Wait.” Garen grabbed her wrist. “Would you like you come have a walk with me? Um…About tactics, if we ever have to ally together in battle.”
Katarina shook off the grip, and stepped away. “I can’t, I need to uh...stay with General Swain since he can’t walk well and..”
The Demacian grinned. “You don’t need to worry about that, he actually left a while ago. My friend Jarvan actually had me watch him all night.”
“But it’s been a long night and..”
“It’s fine, it’s just 7:30. And I promise I won’t hurt you again. I Garen-tee it. Get it?” He chuckled to himself, as Katarina rolled her eyes.
“Don’t test your luck, Demacian.” Katarina crossed her arms as she reluctantly followed him outside.
She followed him to the Institute’s courtyard, right outside the banquet hall. Between the trees, the moon was shining bright , but the glow of the party was even brighter. Katarina took a breath of air, noting a fresher difference from her hometown of Noxus. Garen stopped by a support pillar, and took a deep breath.
“Tough crowd in there, eh?” He tried to make light of her situation.
“How quaint for a welcoming party. Would you like to be the next to tell me how Noxus has done them wrong?” She crossed her arms and kept a distance away from him.
With a smile, he brushed a small amount of hair from his face. “I actually just wanted to apologize for what happened to you last time. That should never have happened. But that hooded guy came out of nowhere and we thought there was an ambush coming. “
“You should’ve finished me. I was actually disappointed you didn’t.” she pouted.
“Well, to be honest, I don’t like killing anyone. Not even a little fly,” Garen said as he stared at his shoes.
“What kind of soldier are you? Scared of killing someone?” Katarina scoffed. ”No wonder the Demacian military has little respect around Valoran.”
“Hey, I have my reasons too, you know.” He looked back up at her. “Whenever I get close to killing someone, I actually think: ‘Hey, this is actually someone’s daughter, friend, sister, or lover.’ I could despise their living guts, but I think about how horrible it is to grief everyone close to them.”
Katarina rolled her eyes again. “Well you killed Sion, didn’t you?”
“Oh that.” Garen nervously laughed. “He actually fell off a cliff, trying to charge at us. Apparently he didn’t see how steep the hill to our camp was.”
“Idiots.” Katarina mumbled to herself. “Well then, how do you suppose the people who have no one close to them?”
Garen frowned. “I don’t know about you guys in Noxus, but I know people in Demacia don’t do that. No man is ever left behind, even in battle!” He watched Katarina, who seemed less than joyful in his company. “I’m actually pretty close with Jarvan, and my sister and I are pretty much twins born at different times. Heck I even have friends from other cities, since I’ve joined the league! Let’s see, there’s that chick Irelia from Ionia, and…” Katarina began walking away, exasperated by the endless mouth of the vanguard.
“Hey, wait! We’re not done talking!” Garen called after her. ”Don’t you have anyone you’re close to? Family? Friends? A boyfriend?” His cheeks turned pink at the mention of the latter.
Katarina heaved a sigh and thought about the question for a moment. Both of her parents were dead, and she had a psychologically distant sister who rarely came out of her room. What she considered her friends were mostly her colleagues in the Noxus military, though honestly she knew no names. Then there was Talon, the only man whose company she could truly appreciate. But her decision to join the League had crushed him. It would take more than a miracle for Talon to ever forgive her. There was no real chance left for them left, she thought. There was only room for restless regret.
“No. No, Garen. I do not have anyone.” Katarina solemnly replied, staying put in her place.
A large hand landed on her shoulder, and behind it was a smiling Garen.
“Alright then, Miss Katarina.” Garen stretched out his other hand. “Then let me be your first friend.”
Talon took haste as he rummaged through the General’s files. Was Du Couteau really supposed to be Darkwill’s successor? Could that fact alone be the motive to his disappearance? To even Darkwill’s assassination? And mostly, who had the power to bring down two of Noxus’s strongest in just a matter of months?
There were too many questions, and he needed to find evidence.
H…High Command. The H-J cabinet was full of uninteresting manuscripts of their rulings, but nothing about Du Couteau becoming the next Grand General. He rummaged further, hoping that the General had left him anything. As he was shifting through the numerous folders, he caught sight of one, well hidden. It had fallen beneath the others, with the words "CONFIDENTIAL" written across the body.
He pulled out the entire folder and began to look through its contents. It was not numerous, but consisted of a hand sketched map, detailing the many hidden nooks and passageways of Noxus, some of which were actually new to Talon. A few spots had been circled in pen while others had question marks beside them. Talon put the map aside and looked through the other papers.
The next file was another manuscript, similar to the ones he had seen earlier, with the words "League of Legends" in red ink. It detailed Noxus's possible involvement into a continental organization that would supposedly solve the ongoing wars. The sole opponent to the ruling was Du Couteau himself, but the rest had voted against him. Du Couteau's opponents had argued that going against the League would cause Noxus to be threatened by other cities, and becoming members would only help Noxus militarily.
Though Du Couteau had little argument in the manuscript, in his own copy had written notes. He circled several statements and put notes beside them such as "Could cause Noxian Scandal." "Black Rose." But there was one note that shocked Talon: "Danger to all Noxian Champions." It was obscure to Talon, as to why Du Couteau refused to bring up all these issues.
Were these notes just speculation? Or he know something else, beyond what was written in the manuscript? Talon knew he had found something, but was he unsure of what it meant and it wasn't enough. Looking around, he spotted a cabinet labeled "A –D".
"Darkwill. There has to be something about him in there."
Hurriedly, he pulled opened up the cabinet, but rather than an abundance of folders and papers, the drawer was empty. It was clear someone else had gotten to the evidence before he could. Aside from Katarina and himself, there was only one other visitor to Du Couteau's office.
Talon grunted as he slammed the cabinet to a close. In battle, when Du Couteau would have to make a guess, Talon saw that he was usually right and his trust had yet to fail. Perhaps now was a sign to check out the League for himself. Though heartbroken that Katarina had left him, it was still his duty to protect her. Anything Talon could do to protect the only woman he would ever love.
In the corner of his eye, an odd raven few past the office's window.
Chapter 11: Bittersweet Dreams
An obnoxious ring began to emit from a nearby alarm clock, indicating that the minute had finally struck into the mid-morning hour. Almost immediately, Katarina awoke from her brief rest. Her eyes released the solitude of sleep, and the touch of the morning sun had left her skin in a sticky sweat. Yet her body was lethargic, carrying extra exhaustion from the many days before. After many efforts to fall asleep the night before, her sleep had been almost immediately disrupted. She turned her head toward a night stand where she caught sight of an orange cylinder container. It had been filled with medicine to solve her insomnia, though she had yet to resort to drugs.
It had been an ongoing problem, since Katarina had moved so far away from home. Rather than counting sheep, her nights were spent pondering of the life she had before. The familiar Victorian wallpaper of her family’s manor, the warm faces of the servants she would see every day, and even the little battles she would get with her sister. Underneath her eyelids, she would recall those many fond details of Noxus, though nothing quite warmed her like the thought of him. Since the untimely demise of her father, it had only been in his company that she truly felt such sanctuary. But her regrets never ceased to rest, often staining her pillow with tears.
But as homesick she was, her duties to the league were always unavoidable; even her alarm had to remind her of a match she had been scheduled for that day. There were no exits from the League; Katarina knew that such requests would be a sign of weakness and futility. Noxian champions had to be strong. They had to be proud. They had to have honor. This as is, was typical life of a Noxian Champion.
With a great sigh, she pulled her messy red hair away from the pillow. It was another day she had to endure until the end. She had to prove other champions wrong.
She had to do this: For honor, for Noxus, for herself.
A small step of fate had brought Katarina into the Fields of Justice that day. The air had been controlled by a strong breeze, tossing up her strands of red. Yet, she went against the direction of the wind as if she was forcing her way into the battleground. After all, there was nothing that could stop her from the call of battle. Not even a small chill.
Noting her partner to be absent, Katarina had found time to stretch before discussing their battle tactics. With a crack of her wrist, she pulled out an ornate sword, more polished, and heavier than others she had used before. It had been made from stainless Noxian steel, with a tribal-like design on its center. Besides being the most ornate of her weapons, the blade also had sentimentality as a gift from her father during their first mission together. Its twin belonged to him, representing their indestructible bond.
The tragic, yet fond memory of her father had strengthened her, as she wielded her blade. This was the last haven of war that Noxus had to offer and it was her chance to prove herself, under the Du Couteau name. Her father had created a legacy and to disappoint him now was not an option. The league was the last chance she had to find honor.
“Quite a beautiful sword, Katarina,” A feminine voice called from behind her, small footsteps accompanying it.
“Akali, will I be allied with you today?”
Katarina turned around to the female ninja before her, as she focused on the last of her stretches. The bottom half of Akali’s face was covered in a mask with her wide, black eyes glancing at Katarina. She wielded two Kamas in each of her fists and her slender legs stemmed out of her green uniform. The ninja gingerly nodded, as Katarina rose from the ground.
Katarina knew of her, long before joining the league. There were stories about her, surpassing her mother as the Fist of Shadow at such an early age. To fight so young, a battle carried on by her mother; a situation Katarina had been familiar with, from her father. But being an Ionian brought no favor from Katarina, especially after the incident with Master Yi.
“Still living in your mother’s shadow, I see.” The air between the two thinned as the two warriors had locked each other into a stare. Akali tightened the grip on her Kamas, a visible frown forming under her facemask.
“You go east. Perhaps it’s best that we fight on separate grounds.” Akali spoke with scorn, as she turned away, “Before we end up hurting each other.”
“Fine,” Answered Katarina, a bit annoyed. “At least I don’t need to watch over someone useless.” With that, Katarina tucked away her father’s sword and took out one of her usual blades. There were better opportunities to use it, and now was not the time.
Katarina had concealed herself well, taking position behind a large boulder. Quietly sinking her boots into the earthy battleground, she caught sight of her opponent approaching the jungle; just as she expected. It was a woman, dressed in a lightweight and flexible spandex, and her hair had been cut rather short with magenta strands framing her face. A sword was prepared on her side, presumably her weapon of choice. Katarina immediately recognized her as Fiora, the League’s most recent champion from Demacia.
Zealous in her steps, the other woman’s eyes darted corner to corner; seemingly ignorant of Katarina’s location. Seizing the opportunity, Katarina dashed from behind and swiped a dagger across her distracted opponent’s back. The blood was minimal, but Fiora had stumbled back, with a look of surprise on her face. Immediately recognizing Katarina, she unsheathed her own sword, and pointed its tip toward her chest.
“I will not be destroyed by a Noxian!” Fiora growled. With the sword in her hand, she lunged toward Katarina, who deflected the attack with her own sword.
“Engarde!” Fiora yelled again, as Katarina moved faster to dodge her frequent, wild swings. A few hits had landed, but they were the least of Katarina’s problems. Rather quickly, she became exhausted in the heat of battle. It became increasingly difficult to focus another hit on Fiora, as her mind had grown weary from the lack of sleep and she felt her entire body was underperforming. But Katarina had to win. She had to.
“Try me, Katarina.” Another strike was thrown, though rather than dodging it, Katarina held the hit with her sword. With the pressure of Fiora’s sword upon her own, Katarina’s arms became sore. But it was a better chance than any to turn the battle around. With a free hand, she pulled out her father’s sword, quickly impaling Fiora’s torso. Through the rip of her spandex, a steady stream of Fiora’s blood began to flow smoothly on the decorative grooves of Katarina’s blade. The dualist pulled away in horror, as more fatal amounts of blood dripped.
“Nice try, but your best was not good enough.” Katarina smiled, as blood dripped cleanly off the stainless sword.
From a distance, there were hurried footsteps. As much as Katarina disliked Akali, she had wanted her to see this sight: A true Noxian warrior, asserting her full dominance and strength. Katarina had done the impossible, and surpassed her own physical incapability. This was the greatest honor that any Noxian soldier could ever hold. But rather than the Fist of shadow, the footsteps were that of another. Carrying a large crossbow in her hands, the woman aimed at Katarina.
“Vayne!” The dualist spoke again, as her body slowly slump to the ground.
Knowing there was no way to fight the archer and win, Katarina began to run. Her boots shifted the dirt under her, as she hurriedly escaped. But the archer was unyielding, as her aim proved well enough to impale a silver bolt on Katarina’s back. It was a single bolt that pierced through her skin, but its damage was unanticipated. Pulling the bolt out, Katarina had realized the tip was laced with a purple substance – an unknown poison that was now swimming through her veins.
Though she had managed to flee from the archer, Katarina had ultimately lost. Within minutes, the pain had become exponential, and parts of her body failed to respond. The muscles of her legs relaxed as she fell to the ground. Her father’s sword landed by her face as her trembling fingers had been infected by the poison. They were only signs that death would soon come. With the final fragments of her energy, Katarina began to analyze the grooves of her father’s sword. It was ever ornate, as her tearful face reflected off its edge. She had failed Noxus, her family, and most of all, she had failed herself.
But there was a positive to all this: Katarina begun to see how liberating death was. She could finally be relieved of stressful constraints to the league. She could be free of the criticisms from those who opposed Noxus. Most of all, she could finally forget all her regrets; an eternal sleep that she had so thirsted for within her time in the league.
With the thought, she finally embraced death.
But somehow, she couldn’t die.
Katarina awoke again in her room, but this time, there were small amounts of pain still lingering in her body. She should've known it couldn't have ended that easily. This had been the work of Summoners, those whose job was to "protect" champions. With their unnatural magic, they had the ability to reverse the symptoms of death and to restore her body to its prior condition. The pain would always feel real, with the relief of demise never to come.
This was the life she had stupidly chose, to gain such suffering for what only seemed to be honor.
Katarina turned to her night stand, again noticing the prescribed sleeping pills. It took one to fall asleep, but with several she could be granted a sleep, so eternal. It was a way to bypass the summoner's unnatural magic. She seized the orange container into her palm, and contemplated. War always had its casualties, and perhaps it was her turn. If the league would deny her death, then it was possibly best to bring it upon herself.
Sullen as she sat up from the bed, Katarina began to reflect on the life she had lived.
Somewhere in her family's home, a woman lived. But was not the beast that she feared, but rather, it was the woman underneath it. A woman who had grown so wary of the world, that she sister she had once adored had been lost. The sweet words between them had ceased and only words of hatred were left to exchange. At most times, unnecessarily.
Katarina clenched her pillow in her arms, dampening them with tears. She recalled the younger Du Couteau on the night of their mother's death: her blond hair in ruined curls as she wept, as she begged Katarina to save their family. A promise she had ultimately failed upon their father's murder. A lifelong thirst for revenge and blood, a revenge she now knew to be impossible.
Then there was the boy that her father had brought home. A boy she had quietly loved until she had let him go, so unexpectedly. As far as she was concerned, he could've gone back to his old ways and completely abandoned his place in the Du Couteau family. Katarina saw the only reasonable option for him was to move on. And she had to, as well.
There was no reason left to fight and the mistakes of the past only served to haunt her. The room became cold, sending shivers down her throughout her body. Her left hand trembled, shaking the contents of the orange container. It was more than enough pills for her, enough to ease the pain.
"Katarina, why are you crying?"
A voice of a familiar timbre had usurped her from her thoughts. The touch of a sturdy hand grabbed hers, warming it in the chilly room. With her weakened green eyes, Katarina looked up to find a man standing beside her. With his free hand, he took off his purple hood, revealing messy brown hair and a beautiful face she could only recall with her eyes closed. That was, until now.
Chapter 12: The Young Demacian Woman
Talon leaned himself by the window, asphyxiated by the scene before him. Avoiding the intrusive eyes of others, the curtains were behind him were shut, leaving little light in the small suite. For Katarina’s safety, he took possession of the pill bottle, holding it in his palm.
But what if he hadn’t come when he did?
It was not a nightmare he’d be willing to live, but the damage was far from done. He watched tentatively as her exhausted eyes turned toward him, her skin significantly paler than he once remembered.
“Talon. What are you doing here?” Katarina said, finally cracking the silence.
“I wanted to check up on you,” Talon shook the canister to rattle the pills “…which I see was a good call.”
Katarina wiped her face on her sleeves, trying to get as much composure she could. “You never fail to catch me at my weakest. But that’s not reason enough to make the trip.” Katarina said, as her eyebrows furrowed.
“Well, it is still my duty to protect you.” He whispered as a warm hand clasped over hers. “It will be, and it always will be.”
Using his free hand, he began to slowly wipe away the small tears she had left. From a closer look, Talon noticed her body had lost significant weight and muscle, as if she had been suffering for a long time. She had become frail, and he feared at any moment she could break.
“Seeing as how things are, I think it is best if you come home with me. It’s obvious you’re not doing well on your own.” said Talon, a sympathetic look on his face.
“I refuse.” Katarina gave little consideration, as she pushed away his hand. “I have responsibilities and duties that I can’t just accomplish in Noxus anymore.” Katarina’s tone was blunt and clear, her green eyes glaring at her fellow assassin.
“Kat. Just come back to Noxus. Please.”
“Why should I, Talon?” Her voice becoming agitated.
It was no longer a matter of yearning for the woman, but now her well being. Something in him wanted to fight for her life. Talon quietly pondered what would make her come home. Soon his thoughts led him to his personal investigation, including the danger of the League. He looked up at Katarina who was quietly awaiting an answer. He knew the answer would hurt her but at the same time she needed to be safe from harm; she needed to leave immediately.
“I have a clue about your father’s death. If we pursue this lead, I believe we may find the ones responsible.”
Katarina’s head perked up, suddenly intrigued by his words.
“Right before his death, the general was keeping tabs on this cult and after his death they had opportunities to advan..”
A hard knock on the wooden door interrupted their conversation.
“I’m coming in, if you don’t mind Kat. I heard what happened earlier from that loud mouth Fiora, since she would not shut up about how she caught you off guard and had you cornered.” A voice said, as the door creaked open. Behind the door, a burly man in Demacian uniform entered, with his sword tucked away. But Talon recognized his despicable face almost immediately. Within moments, Talon had his dagger between his fingers, as he locked Garen’s arms from behind.
“You’ve proven yourself a danger once before, Demacian,” growled Talon.
“Vile scourge. Who let an undiplomatic scum like you into the league?” Garen muttered. Using his comparable size as an advantage, Garen forced himself out of Talon’s grip and shoved him against the wall. Talon’s eyes glared as if he wanted the Demacian’s blood and almost immediately his arm blade unsheathed itself.
“I’m sorry Katarina, but your friend has to go. Without delay.” Garen said, gripping handle of his sword.
Both men were ready to draw blood from each other.
“That’s not necessary Garen.” Katarina said, as she finally stood up. She pulled out one of her chests, quickly grabbing what she considered necessary of her belongings. “He will be escorting me back to Noxus. So, I suggest you leave.” Katarina glared at both men, who were staring each other down to death. The Demacian vanguard took a step back from the purple hooded assassin, eying him with disgust.
“Next time, Demacian. You watch out. ” Talon whispered, tucking away his dagger.
Katarina kept to herself most of the trip, many thoughts she still considered. Amidst the chaos, there were things she could say, but silence was what she preferred. But she became aware of one thing: a small step had been reached, and it was only time to move forward. They eventually hit the marker for Noxus, until an idea popped in Katarina’s head.
“Talon, do you mind if we make a quick stop?”
“What did you have in mind Katarina? Are you hungry perhaps?” Talon answered, a bit curious to her sudden proposal.
Katarina shook her head in disagreement. “I’d like to go to the Ivory Ward marketplace.”
“Do you think it is necessary to go shopping right now?” Talon’s eyebrow rose.
“I just want to check something out. We’ll be very quick.“
In skeptical consent, Talon signaled for the coach driver to stop.
“We can get there faster to get there if we walk.”
It took them about an hour for them to reach the famed Ivory Ward. Katarina felt a small shiver crawl up her spine as they walked on cobblestone roads, and into the marketplace’s main square. The area was common to middle class citizens, causing Talon some confusion as to why Katarina wanted to visit. Above their heads were several direction arrows, each pointing to different streets of the neighborhood. The last arrow had been plagued by wood rot, with the letters “endence Way” being the only thing legible. The others had been maintained or replaced, with the exception of this one.
“I think that’s it.” Katarina whispered to herself, following the arrow’s direction. Dutifully, Talon followed.
As they traveled further down the road, Katarina’s shivers became stronger and the air became harder to breathe. Though the day was still ripe, the road was dimming from the shadow of the suburb mountains.
“We’re quite a long way from home. Where exactly are you going?” Talon asked, almost annoyed of the traveling.
“I don’t know.” Katarina replied.
The deeper in they went, the denser the air became. Though a few merchants had managed, the lack of commerce was notable, compared to the other neighborhoods. Soon Katarina’s footsteps stopped at a building. It was rather different from the rest, in that it was notably cleaner. Though were no occupants, there were signs that the building had been used rather recently, by the fact that it had used candlelight in an upper room.
“Let’s go in.” Katarina said, as she pushed in the door.
Talon stayed downstairs, rather confused as to why she would bring him here. But it was still his duty to follow her, regardless of how ludicrous her plans were. As Katarina searched on the upper floor, something shiny and golden caught his eye. The object had been embedded in a corner, between a gap of concrete floor and the brick walls. Its chain had been ripped out and pieces of it were scattered around the floor.
Considering it possibly valuable, Talon pulled a dagger from his pocket and began trying his best to pry it out from the gaps. After several tries and a few broken daggers later, the gold loosened from its corner, heavily scratched and badly dented from being stuck for so long. It was a pocket watch, with an intricate emblem that had been ruined.
Coming down fruitless from her search upstairs, Katarina stepped behind him, ultimately wide-eyed by the discovery. She rubbed its ornate groves with delicate fingers. Though had been permanently damaged, the design reigned familiar to her, as her own family’s crest.
“This is my father’s pocket watch. The one he always carried around with him.”
“Is it now?” Talon said, as he opened up its clasp. Shards of glass fell out as he opened its face. The clockwork had been bent, yet its golden hands remained still at a quarter after five.
“He must have died then... It matches the letter he left us.” Katarina quietly muttered to herself.
Talon continued to fiddle around with the watch. It was certainly the General’s, up until his time of demise. But something about the watch itself was puzzlingly odd. The clockwork was large for this size pocket watch, yet its weight seemed rather hollow for its size. With a nail, he begun to tap around its edges until he found a opening. Almost willingly, the back had popped open a hidden compartment, revealing a small, yet thick paper folded up in four ways. It was a photograph of a woman, but the picture had been long dated, judging by faded color. Over the years, the folds made the photo paper brittle enough to rip in careless hands.
“That’s a photo of my mother. But I’ve never seen that one.” Katarina, who had been watching Talon intuitively, came closer to examine.
The Lady Du Couteau shared her bright eyes with Katarina, but her features resembled Cassiopeia more. A wide smile was spread on her face, showing her vibrancy in youth. She was donned in a royal blue uniform, of an unseen fashion from what was casual in Noxus. But there one shocking detail.
“Katarina…was your mother Demacian?”
Katarina shifted her eyes to the background. There it was, a photograph of the woman that Katarina had called mother her whole life, standing behind the Demacian Castle. On the shoulder of her uniform was the Demacian emblem.
“How is that possible? Why didn’t father tell me anything about this?” She scoffed in dismay.
Talon thought about it for a moment, recalling the General’s story about his wife. Could he have lied about her father being in debt to his? Was there another reason as to why he was supposed to assassinate his future wife?
“Something tells me your father covered it up, during your mother’s lifetime.” He concluded. “He did love her a lot, you know.” He said as he wrapped his arm around Katarina’s waist. “And, he must have done a lot to protect her as well.”
Katarina remained silent analyzing each aspect of the controversial photo. It had been a secret her father had buried for years, never coming into light until now. She could imagine her father’s fingers appreciating each dot of ink as they assembled the face of her late mother. Each time he would unfold it, was a reminder of the wife he had lost long ago. But Katarina soon realized something: it never mattered to her father whether her mother was Noxian or not. Rather, what mattered to him the most was the only woman he had loved unconditionally. With that thought, he carried her around wherever he went.
In Katarina’s mind, it explained things a little more.
She folded the photograph and slipped it into her pocket. Letting out a small and sincere smile, she turned to her patient partner.
“Thank you, Talon.” Katarina whispered, as she carefully placed her lips against his.
At the center of Noxus, a man hobbles his way to the offices of the High Command. Relying on the balance of his cane, somehow, he makes his way up the towering stairs. But during his way up, he had caught the eyes of several merchants and bystanders. Most people would be concerned for a person of such physical incapability, but this man was Swain. And Swain let nothing cripple his plans.
He approached a room, rather isolated and difficult to unlock, but using his magic, the door immediately unlocks for him. Swain had no need to fiddle with the pointless lock. In the center of the dark room was a woman perfecting her hair, staring tentatively at the large mirror in front of her. In person, she is youthful and her skin is unblemished. Yet her reflection through the mirror reveals a woman decades older, with wrinkles, cuts, and bruises. Swain finds no oddity in the discrepancy before him and approaches her anyways.
“So you’ve heard as well, Evaine?” He asks, the lack of formality between the two hinting that they are more than associates.
“Indubitably. The girl is a mirror image of her father, in all aspects. Don’t you think so, Swain?” said the woman, as she brushes her indigo hair through the comb’s bristles. “Though I wonder why that hubristic girl would leave the league? She was perfectly fine where she was.”
“Well, she did have a bit of help.”
The woman stopped her beauty regime to turn to Swain, “By who, exactly?”
“Marcus’ personal solder, if you recall the boy.”
Upon hearing the name of the late general, she looked at her hair brush, her mind troubled by something. “I don’t want another incident like that again. That foolish Du Couteau almost single handedly ruined us.”
“I will handle it personally, so don’t you fret, my Noxian queen.” Swain kneeled before her, taking her fair hand into his as he pressed it against his lips. “We are no longer restricted to the walls of Noxus. Our followers range from the islands of Ionia, to the murky waters of Bilgewater. Ultimately, the Black Rose will rise.”
“My faithful Swain. “ Purple lips spread as the mistress cracked a demure smile. “Your loyalty will be rewarded when we rule all of Noxus.”
Chapter 13: The Summer Sun Celebration
Evaine Le Blanc began to stir herself awake as she reached over to the right side of the bed. It retained the warmth of another, but was already devoid of an occupant. Her eyes pried open, confirming the fact that the pillow across from hers was vacant. Yet she had no reason to be surprised. After all to him, the early bird guts the worm.
Shortly after stretching the bones of her youthful body, Le Blanc led herself outside of the cozy bedroom and into the loft’s common room. Just as she expected, Swain remained still and silent as if in respect to not awake her. His hands were wrapped delicately behind his back, he observed Noxus from a bird-eye view. Allowing her footsteps to be heard, be approached him from behind as she playfully leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Watching our kingdom again? It probably hasn’t changed since yesterday.”
Swain turned his head to the woman, a warm smile to his face.
“You’re quite wrong. Just moments ago, a solder was beaten to death by his wife after coming home drunk with another woman he met at the Summer Sun Festivities. She disposed both bodies by the sewer outside of the Ivory Ward. In the alleyways, the rodent population has increased by a thousand fold. While in the docks, 3 ships have set sail for Zaun while another is headed for Ionia.” He patted her soft hair. “Noxus is changing minute by minite, my love.”
“I suppose.” Le Blanc took her place beside him, knowing full well that she was unable to gather as intricate details as much as he could. “Though don’t you suppose we should be doing things, other than monitoring Noxus?
“I’m three steps ahead of you, Le Blanc. I have a strategy that would push things into the right direction. But it will require your full involvement.”
“What did you have in mind?” Though she knew nothing of this new plan, Le Blanc already had full faith in it. She trusted Swain with everything and anything, never once had she a reason to question his alliance.
“You show the summoners your marvelous tricks.” Swain grinned, as he wrapped his arms around her body. “Then alas tomorrow shall become a new, better dawn.”
It was the night before the Summer Sun celebration, and the sun was dawning to rise for Noxus and her citizens. The long night had been spent in joyous celebration, as the plaza remained well lit by the streetlights. Merry citizens danced carelessly to the tapings of drums, their feet in rhythm to the acoustics. Aromas of freshly baked breads warmed the surrounding air as the feasts began. But high above, at the Du Couteau manor, things seemed much less celebratory.
From several stories high, Cassiopeia had been resting on her chaise as she observed the festival-goers from her window. She scorned their ever blissful arrogance.
Yet only a few years ago, she had been the belle of festivities, always garmented in her finest threads. She recalled spending entire nights within in the arms of many men, some who had traveled far to Noxus for a quick dance. There were suitors knocking at her door for years, but only a few names she could remember offhand. The men were countless to her, yet they all had one thing in common: once she had become this beast, none had bothered to come back. All had become fearful of her new body, fleeing for miles to avoid the petrifying gaze that would haunt them for years.
But there was no sorrow was greater than losing her father. The man who once shielded her from the world and its cruelties had been effectively erased from her life. Cassiopeia had realized she was doomed to a life of loneliness. Her biggest fears became her only reality, a reality she fought so hard to sleep away each day. She trembled with tears rolling down her neck, and in a spite of anger, her talons pierced the cushion of the seat.
A knock on the door ripped Cassiopeia away from her deep thought. She released her talons, and quickly rubbed away her tears
“Lady Cassiopeia, are you awake?” She recognized the voice, but it wasn’t one of her usual servants.
“Affirmative. Would it be alright if I..” Talon had been cut off and the door rapidly opened, making the only noise throughout the whole manor.
“Cass, why don’t you just cut the bull****.”
Katarina stepped up to the door as Talon skeptically trailed her inside, knowing full well why he had been explicitly forbidden from it. He caught glimpses of dried streaks of blood on the once-ivory walls, further perturbing him. It was also one of the very few times he had seen Cassiopeia, the ill-repute younger sister of Katarina.
“Do you two have a good reason to bother me, this early in the morning?” She shouted to them, though it was obvious she had not been doing anything else before they had entered.
“Cassiopeia, we need to talk to you whether you like it or not,” Katarina declared, going deeper into the room.
The Serpent Woman heaved a great sigh, and draped a blanket over her tail to conceal it. “You may, if it’s absolutely necessary, but shouldn’t you be at the institute of war? Don’t you have your duties?”
“I convinced your sister to come home.” Talon answered, trying to avert his eyes from Cassiopeia’s body.
“Why? Did you miss her that much? To be quite frank, I didn’t care at all much that you were gone, darling sister.” Cassiopeia scoffed. Like two vicious predators eyeing the other for a meal, the DuCouteau sisters analyzed each other’s sudden movements and actions.
“Was there ever a time where you did not bicker to each other?” He said, trying to intervene between them. But regardless, Katarina already had taken out one of her throwing knives, pointing it toward her own sister.
Cassiopeia let out a sharp hiss and the tip of her tail began to rattle underneath the blanket. “Don’t pry into our family matters Talon. There are some scraps even a dog should not eat, lest he values his life. Perhaps-sss, it was a mistake to allow you both into my sanctuary.” The serpent woman began to show animosity to her visitors as her forked tongue escaped, catching a wift of Katarina’s sweat.
“Then listen to me for a moment, Cassiopeia. I think we discovered something big on the way here.” Katarina pulled something golden from her pocket and in curiosity, Cassiopeia allowed her to come forward. “Does it look familiar? It was father’s, until he was murdered.”
The clock itself had been stopped at precisely 4:15, indicating the exact time it had been destroyed. Her fingers moved to the scratched Du Couteau emblem on its cover, proving its merit. “….Fool.” Her threat quickly faded as tears began to muffle her voice. “Are you foolish enough to have me endure the last moments of his life?”
“That pocket watch isn’t the only thing he had left behind for us,” Katarina plucked their mother’s photo from her back pocket and set it down on her chaise. “I was surprised he kept this until the time of his death, but it tells us a good amount about mother and father’s history.”
As Cassiopeia analyzed the photo a bit more, she caught the discrepancy of their mother. The photo began to tremble between Cassiopeia’s talons. “Katarina, is this real? I’ve never seen a photo of mother, this young. She looks as if she was my age.”
“Well, that pocket watch was real wasn’t it? We found both it in Transcendence Way, just like that weird letter he left us.” Katarina crossed her arms and leaned on her sister’s bedframe. “Don’t worry; we’re equally confused as you are.”
“I have a theory.” Talon suddenly stepped in, surprising the two sisters. “Your father was part of the High Command, much before you two were even born. With that in mind, he must have had a ton of influence and power to be able mask your mother’s true origins. But what if there was someone else he didn’t anticipate, someone who already knew about her before she came into Noxus?”
“What is it that you imply, Talon?” Katarina asked, her hands resting on her hips.
“During the night she was murdered. What if their exact target was your mother?”
The watch flew from Cassiopeia’s grip, making impact on Talon’s forehead and leaving a dark red mark. “You may have been lucky enough to become a Noxian assassin, but you’re stupid one at that,” Cassiopeia cringed. “Do you know how exactly how our mother died? They barged inside, with no care but to ransack our home and father’s office. Then right next to our bedroom, only a few feet outside of that door, they attacked our mother. Oh, but they didn’t simply cut open her throat to quickly liberate her,” A steady stream of tears began to flow to her angular chin. “Her murderers pierced her body again, and again and again, giving us children an earful of desperate cries for help. Yet you care to come in here and tell me that she was targeted from the very first moment? Who would you suppose would do this to us?”
Talon rubbed his left hand over the injury, as he bent down to pick up the watch. “The Black Rose would be my prime suspect.”
“…Are you making this up Talon? Did that watch get rid your common sense?” Katarina crossed her arms in equal frustration. “They haven’t been seen or heard from in ages.”
“Then why would your father still be keeping tabs on them, up until his death? Enough tabs to worry someone like General Swain. Katarina, there would be more clues if he hadn’t gotten to evidence before we did.”
Irate, the serpent woman separated herself from the chase, standing in front of Katarina. “Sister, are you foolish enough to consider such speculation? It’s no wonder you’re attracted to him. You two are a pair of stupid people breeding more stupidity into this world,” Cassiopeia scowled, tossing the photo on the floor and under Katarina’s boot.
He glared at the younger Du Couteau, the pain of the bruise finally becoming dull. “Very well then Lady Cassiopeia. I fully support your decision to continue living in the darkness, unaware of what really happens outside of your bedroom,” Talon shouted, as he stormed out of the room.
Katarina picked up the photo, tucked it back into her pocket and headed toward the door. As she placed her hand on the door handle to leave, she looked behind at her younger sister with pity. “I’ve made my choice, and there’s no going back. Perhaps now it’s your turn.”
Cassiopeia turned herself back to the window, her eyes boiling with tears.
Talon found his place on the rooftop of the western side of the manor. The sun began to peek through from the buildings as the last night festivities had finally dispersed. Things were quieter where he was, as the rest of the servants had finally returned from their parties, all still in buzz by the festivities.
He slowly digested the Cassiopeia’s story as things started to make sense. From the General’s obsession with the Black Rose, to bizarre attitude of the Du Couteau sisters, the lives of the Du Couteau family had been forever altered by the war that happened in their very own home. Though Talon himself had never found place in a family, he found a great amount of his thought was spent on pitying the Du Couteau’s. Their stable family life had changed drastically that day, yet for years their family had lived in high risk, almost making it no surprise as to how things began to weave part. The bloodshed, betrayal and mayhem would never be forgotten in their mind, including following General Du Couteau until his death. In comparison to his former life on the streets, Talon found it to be a more miserable to live.
“I found you.” The clacking of boots approached him, the voice giving a Talon a slight eagerness. He turned to find his red headed partner hovering over.
“Miss Katarina.” A small smile appeared on his lips.
“Haven’t heard that one from you.” Katarina answered, taking a seat beside him.
“You’ll have to get used to it then. Also, Sorry about what happened in there with Cass,” he turned to her, as she hugged her knees. “I didn’t realize she’d react so negatively.”
“Well, I’m the not one who should be apologizing to you,” she gently rubbed a finger on his injury, that became a inflamed and purple in color. “As much as I wouldn’t want to believe it, you do have a valid point. For years, it was as if my father had some sort of sick obsession with them. I didn’t want to believe it at first since it was always just stories but now…” Talon wrapped his arm around Katarina to console her. A small smile creeped up to her face. “I hate to say it, but I’m a bit glad you decided to stay around, Talon. Don’t think I would’ve known as much if you weren’t around.”
“Then sometime soon we ought to pay a visit to Swain & the rest of the High Command. It’s something worth investigating. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to try and find information on the Black Rose. I may have a strong hunch, but realistically nothing I have is solid at this point,” Talon admitted.
“Well, nothing will ever get done if we’re sitting pointlessly on rooftops.” Katarina rose from his warmth, stretching her legs. Like a rabbit that was unafraid of great heights, she leapt to the eastern side of the roof top, and before he could see her again, she was already standing on the branches of a neighboring tree.
“Talon! Get going.” She shouted, as she waited on the branch.
“Never understood how you can move so fast.” Talon huffed as he dashed across the roof shingles, barely reaching the eastern side. Though he had spent years perfecting escapes from angry merchants and other assassins, he could never fathom having Katarina’s brilliant dexterity.
“At least try to catch me.” She taunted from the tree, as Talon continued to stumble his way over, swinging branch by branch. But to his mistake, he grabbed several weak branches that were unable to sustain his weight. Within seconds, the branches snapped, descending him to wet sod.
Katarina let out a hearty laugh, as she climbed down and her boots reached the grass. “I guess we’re taking the ground route?”
Talon groaned in pain, as he stood up to clean the dirt from his clothes. “I never understood how you move that fast. I don’t see a purpose of trying to race you like this.”
“Come on, live a little… while you can.” Playfully, she stroked his cheek and began running toward the north.
Talon watched her from behind as he began to analyze her movements. Each muscle in her fit body reacted with each movement, and in the blink of a shadow, she was already ahead. By watching her, he began to get a similar hang of the movements, finally figuring how to balance his weight as his body shifted in action. With this increased flux, he felt the soles of his own boots thinning out, but his body was moving faster than before. Talon believed that he could catch her now – he knew her tricks. A wide grin grew on his face as he hastened toward her, a significant amount faster than his other attempts.
Katarina expecting as such, had her own plan. Using his unsuspecting shoulders, she flipped the weight of her body backwards, to end up right behind him. Her long red hair trickled across his face, as Talon took a while to realize that she had sprinted toward another direction. Her planned worked, or so she thought. It wasn’t the first time she had pulled the same trick on him.
From above a tree, Talon allowed his body to crash right on top of hers, to finally catch her. Their torsos aligned as he pinned her down on the soft grass. Yet after all her taunts and the pain from impact, rather than victory, something else had been distracting Talon: Katarina was directly under him, rather helpless and unable to escape. With the closeness of the situation, he was able to observe her ever beautiful features, even if stained by sweat. Yet, viewing her now had only enforced his brooding opinion of her. His thoughts began lead him elsewhere as his right hand began to slowly caress her curves and his left reaching her red strands of hair.
Amazed, Katarina gazed up at him with wide green eyes and cheeks stained with red. She carefully watched him, as he continued to interact with her body. "Talon, we’d get there faster if you weren’t pinning me down."
Immediately noting his own error, Talon’s face returned the red. “M-my apologies, Katarina,” and slowly he got off of her, brown eyes still locked with green. “Let’s just go, I suppose.”
Chapter 14: The Summoner
The Hazy Inn Tavern of Kalamanda had been bustling with its usual weekend business. Occupied seats catered to the usual crowd and thanks to the bar’s proximity also served League officers and champions. Though the leaguers seemed to have their own society within the League of Legends, the small town of Kalamanda always welcomed their neighbors.
Summoner Jack and a few of his fellow junior summoners took advantage of their hospitable community to celebrate a recent victory. In their careless joy, they ordered many tapped bears, several shots, and cocktails that could sustain Gragas’s thirst for about an hour or two. They cracked inside jokes of letting Urf become a champion and passed along the latest gossip of Taric and Ezreal.
Feeling a strong urge in his beer-filled bladder, Jack quickly excused himself to the restroom, knowing he was ready to explode. But striding toward the bathroom, an interesting sight had caught his eye: It was a woman, drinking alone for the evening. Solemnly, she took small sips of white wine from a polished glass and stared tentatively at the fading wooden bar as if contemplating something.
Remembering his natural urges, he ran to the restroom to finish his business, only to catch himself staring at the woman again on his way back to his friends. Her elegant red hair cascaded over her cheeks, but her face was marred by a long scar. Tight leather exposed her fit body and belted around her waist were several weapons, among them throwing knives. Somehow the woman seemed extremely familiar, most likely someone Jack had encountered at the league. There was an intricate type of beauty to her, almost ageless, despite the aura of danger she carried.
“Hello there, miss.” He coyly asked, taking an obvious detour back to his own table. The alcohol had fueled him with enough courage to even speak with her, something he knew he was only blowing dice with. But not a word was said by the woman, as she continued to stare at her wine. Jack heard his friends chucking from afar, as his cheeks began to glow a fleshy red. Embarrassed, he looked away and slowly began walking back toward his friends.
“Can I help you, summoner?” She finally answered as Jack wasted no time to begin a conversation with her.
“I erm – Well, I wanted to say that you looked rather beautiful tonight…” He conjured some more courage and took the barstool beside her. She continued take more sips from the glass until finally she reached the last drop. The alcohol-fueled summoner continued spitting out words “…and you’ve got a really nice set of uh…boots! Yeah boots! Also that scar doesn’t look too bad, in fact it makes your face kinda…”
“Looks can be deceiving, most especially with alcohol in your breath. But making bad decisions are even worst.” She answered, her face turning to him. The scar was the most obvious thing about her, shadowing her marvelous aquamarine eyes. Something about her seemed lethal; it might have been her sharp weapons, but Jack knew he had come too far in the game to just run away with a tail between his legs.
“No-no please don’t think that. I’ve seen you before at the League. You’re a quite stunning and talen-”
“Stop this.” Without a blink, the red headed woman paid her dues to bartender and stood up before he could finish his complements. He quietly watched as she made her way toward the door, much to his disappointment.
Had he offended her? Or was it worst, and did she think that he wanted to do things with her? Though discreetly he lusted for her body, he knew as a league summoner, it was in his moral code to be more respectful than he had acted. Without a second thought he got up from his stool and began to chase the woman. His friends remained, watching the scene unfold for their desperate friend.
Outside, she had begun walking back toward the league. Her arms were crossed and she was turned away from him. It was now obvious to Jack that he had upset her, and any morality he had left compelled him to chase her. It was the very least he could do.
“I sincerely apologize if you think I treated you a less than a woman, I know a bar isn’t the best place to talk to ladies and you must’ve thought…well you know.” He bashfully said, bowing his head down.
Without a word, she turned to him with a big grin on her face. She had him exactly where he was supposed to be.
After the other junior summoners finished the last of their beers, they all finally agreed to return back to the Institute. Hours had passed since Jack had run out on them and they began praising him for his successful endeavors. To them, he was the lucky one that night, as they all proceeded to leave without him.
Jack would’ve been lucky, if he hadn’t gotten himself killed.
Talon’s footsteps shadowed closely behind Katarina’s, as he followed her to eastern side of the DuCouteau Manor. The dim hallway had become unkempt in her absence, the dust on the floors retained shoe prints from the months before. There were words to be said, yet neither had answers. Only mysteries shrouded the consequences of General DuCouteau’s watch, as if it was a piece to a completely different puzzle. At the end of the hallway, Katarina unlocked the door to her bedroom, inhaling its familiar smell. She began to relax a little, knowing she could finally put her guard down in the room.
“I say we leave our little investigation behind, till the morning. You seem like you’ll need some rest as well.” Katarina finally said as she lit up a filthy, yellow lamp beside her bedroom door.
“But I’ve got a hunch Katarina. What happened was no accident at all. It had to be elaborately planned by someone. If we’re going to figure out anything we can’t even shut our eyes for a momen…” Talon said, stepping into the room.
“I’ve said this once before and I’ll say it again. Why does this still matter so much to you?” Katarina coldly interrupted, albeit to the surprise of Talon. Talon stood beside her bed, contemplating his answer. “Any good dog would know that digging everywhere isn’t worth it, especially if there are probably no bones. You don’t have to do this, and I won’t make you do this.”
Talon’s eyes moved to her scar, recalling a time when he could care less about the woman. And now, he had gone far and beyond his honor and gratitude for the elder DuCouteau. Though his own interests had grown exponentially, he looked toward Katarina as she sat down on her bed. Her eyes were deep and hollowed, as if something more had broken inside of her; she had become a porcelain figure of the woman she was, devoid of any fighting spirit.
If they had gotten her father, Talon knew that at some point they would make an attempt on Katarina herself, especially in such a state. He had to find a way for her to recover her strength, to take her out of her despair. He had to protect her from everyone, including herself. Like a virus, Katarina had occupied the majority of Talon’s thoughts and intentions.
“But what if that dog is sure that there’s gold to be found?” He finally responded, his lips pursed into a small, but sincere smile for her.
“Fine. Do what you have to do. I suppose you’re a grown man.” Katarina exhaled in defeat, setting her head down on the pillow. She continued to watch him, his big brown eyes entrapping hers.
“Very well, Miss Katarina, I’ll see you in the morning.” He answered, before taking steady steps toward the doorway.
“I hope you can keep your word about that.” She mumbled somberly, watching the heavy wooden door close behind him, vibrating the room. Katarina spent the next moments listening to his distancing footsteps. As the footsteps grew inaudible, a dark and familiar feeling of fear began to sink inside of her.
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