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I bring to you today a story of possibly platonic affections, of combat and war, of death, morality, brutality and death, as well as a whole slew of other cheesy generic terms that often get tossed around in fan-fiction! WOO!
Anyway, this story is about Nemhain, a champion design that I've been working on and revising repeatedly over the last year or so.
Chapter 1: Prelude to War
"Aideen get down, you fool!"
The young huntress immediately slips her head below the line of the hill, her breathing controlled, though still obviously heated, her heart racing as the group makes their final preparations for the attack. Blades being sharpened, armour being adjusted for proper fit, and an air of slight tenseness hangs aloft, just enough to be felt as a slight, electric charge running through ones body.
"As much as I trust you in a fight, I still can't seem to trust you to sit still and not give away our position, now can I?"
The matriarch scowls with distaste on the less experienced huntress, yet, in her eyes, Aideen can see the compassion hidden within. Nemhain had always been a harsh mistress, when it came to battle, but that was why she always won. That was why they would win, now, despite the odds being against them. With the matriarch by their side, each member swelled with pride and ferocity, the privilege of even being upon this mission an honour to each, even were they not to return.
"Dierdra and Ianna, start moving to your positions. Remember, as soon as you strike, fall back. We'll flank in behind them as soon as they chase you. And make bloody sure that you get seen this time! Last time you killed a half dozen of them before they turned around. You're supposed to be looking like you're from the Broken Paw tribe. They'll never fall for it if they see you were able to actually be useful."
A few assorted bouts of laughter rise from the small encampment, though, soon, even that quiets down. Nemhain looks around her comrades, each hand picked and personally trained, she knows they won't let her down. Not to their dying breath.
Slitted eyes play across the features of the others, their slightly hunched over forms bristling with muscle and power beneath a sandy coat of fur and slabs of thick armour. Her own face contains a short, hyena muzzle, which grins widely now, so close to the moment of combat. That burning sensation of fear, exhilaration, and a lust for bloodshed, all funneling down into a single moment of unadulterated ecstasy on the battlefield.
Of the Ferax tribes, the Blood Claw is not particularly well known for their size in numbers. True, this is mostly due to their warlike nature, and that their aggressive tendencies usually keep their numbers from growing too great. Even so, despite a lower population, their matriarch's keen intellect, tactical and strategic thinking, and ferocity in battle had garnered the Blood Claw a reputation to be feared.
Even the Dark Moon tribe, which they now faced, knew better than to draw upon the Blood Claw's ire. Or, at least, that had been the supposition, until members from the Dark Moon had been caught by Nemhain herself during an attempted raid upon their food stores. While it has been an even more barren season than usual, there were cleaner targets to pillage from.
This little skirmish she had planned would help both their tribes, after a fashion. After all, the dead do not feast. It would be better, she thinks to herself, It would be better were they to fall in combat, than to wither, growing thin and weary, dying of dehydration and malnourishment. At least, then, the Goddess would have mercy upon them.
Her thoughts are jarred back to the present, as a cry of alarm is let loose in the camp below, shouts of surprise, and then of revenge, spilling into the cool, night air of the cracked landscape. Blistering heat, though there may be in the day, with so little vegetation in the Fyrone Flats, and in Effete in particular, there is simply nothing to maintain that heat come night fall.
"There's our cue, boys and girls. You have your assignments, now get out there and teach them what it means to piss off the Blood Claw!"
As the order is given, the Ferax let loose their howls and gibbering laughter of approval. Weapons raised, and armour gleaming, they charge into the night to lay siege to the enemy encampment.
Torchlight provides some glimpses of the melee, axes flashing, arterial blood splattering across the various combatants, dying their sandy fur crimson, and throughout the battle, is the ever inspiring presence of the matriarch herself.
Smaller than most of her own subordinates, at a mere six and a half feet in height, Nemhain is an oddity among the matriarchs. Generally the biggest were the strongest, the ones to lead others into battle. In this relatively small package, however, lay the ferocity of a dozen warriors.
Blades raised against two of the Blood Claw descend with a swiftness unheard of from most other tribes. The Dark Moon's strength was in their agility, less than their brute strength, and as such, to have their blades strike the metallic, gleaming edge of the matriarch, rather than their intended targets, leaves a mark of surprise upon the faces of the pair, before they're cut down.
A sudden twist, her axes cleaving in a reaper's arc, and another three are felled. Maniacal laughter echoes outward, borne from the matriarch's lungs, and lofting into the night air to encompass the entirety of the battle.
In a few, scant minutes, the end arrives as soon as it had started. Only a pair of the Dark Moon are left standing, with one grasping onto the other for support, her arm around her sister's neck.
Nemhain walks up to them, casually, then traces a finger down a gash along the side of one of their faces, drawing the digit to her lips to lick the clotting blood off.
"You have fought well. For that, the Goddess is appeased. You will, of course, return to your village, and tell them not to foul the sands of the Blood Claw with their presence any longer. You have more appetizing morsels to feed upon, and we can't be bothered to wipe your kind from existence. At least, not just yet."
Hobbling forwards with the aid of her sister, the larger of the two Dark Moons, though less imposing in stature at this moment, with a wounded leg, snarls in response.
"You really don't know, then, do you? There aren't any others left. The northern tribes are gone."
If there is any surprise to be had, her facial features show no indication of such. The smaller woman merely studies the pair, then turns her head, slowly, to glance northward.
"Then the reports are true... there aren't any?"
"Not one. Not a single, bloody one left. With our stores running dry, and the unknown threat from the north, there was no choice!"
Nemhain glances sharply back towards her, eyes narrowing in preparation of her response.
"There's always a choice. You choose to fight, or you choose to die. Instead, you chose to cower, in fear, and dishonour yourself with petty theft. And now, you make another choice."
The motion's nearly undetectable, with the speed at which the cut is made. For a lingering moment, it might even suggest that it had not occurred, were it not for the larger woman's head falling to the ground, lifeless, seconds later.
"It looks like your sister chose death, after all, and you shall be returning home, alone."
The other Dark Moon nods slowly, in understanding, letting her fallen comrade's body slump from her arm's grip, crumpling to the ground, a piled heap of flesh and blood.
"She would have slowed you down, anyway. You are now to return with a new message. The Blood Claw will not tolerate any one, no matter what force it may be, to prey upon the Ferax tribes. We will remove this problem for you, as they removed the other tribes. You will, then, have no further need to delve into our food stores, now will you?"
The larger woman nods once more, lips pulled back in a slight grimace as her eyes trail down towards the headless corpse at her feet.
"Of course, crimson matriarch. It is... as you say."
Both gauntleted hands rest upon her shoulders as Nemhain smiles, with almost a look of compassion within her eyes, this time.
"Go now, my sister, for we are all Ferax. You have a long journey ahead of you, and it begins now. Herald our coming, to instill fear into our enemies. They will learn, soon, the mistake they have made in invading our lands."
Chapter 2: Burden of Responsibility
Aideen undoes the clasps, and carefully works her way through the armour, removing one piece at a time, and setting them aside with care.
"It never ceases to amaze me, how you're able to go through their forces as a hot wind like that. Such grace and skill..."
The smaller woman laughs heartily and rests an arm around the others neck, grinning widely.
"And it never ceases to amaze me, how you still don't know when to keep your bloody head down!"
Even though she's the larger of the two, by nearly a full foot in height, Aideen still blushes at the mentioning of her error, and bows with deference to her matriarch.
"I... I'll endeavor to do better, mistress."
A smirk crosses Nemhain's muzzle as she rests a finger under the younger girl's chin, raising it slowly upwards, towards her own.
"You fought well, out there. Nearly two kills by yourself, I heard, and assistance in several more. It's something to be proud of, Aideen."
The larger of them turns her head to the side, frustration playing upon her features, as something clearly bothers her. A few moments of internal conflict later, she looks her matriarch in the eyes, and speaks her voice once more.
"I didn't earn anything, if I didn't get a single killing blow, though. Not one enemy fell to my blade. Not one!"
Pausing in her duties of removing her superior's armour, she turns away and sighs heavily.
"I just don't understand how to be more like you, mistress. I'm larger in size, and by all rights, that means I should have more to my name than mere assists."
She turns back, again, brows furrowed in concentration and concern.
"I don't know what it is I'm doing wrong."
Nemhain pauses for a moment, and looks her younger, by a year, over with great care.
"You really should pay attention to your studies more, then. How many times have I told you, that glory for all, is more important than glory for the one?"
Clasping her hands upon the larger girl's shoulders, she smiles, with genuine care, and concern that this lesson has not yet been learned.
"If all you care about is the final blow, and you get your kill, but it's at the expense of your sister's life beside you, is it a victory? If you garner a dozen kills, by yourself, yet leave your home open, and your family is slaughtered, can you feel pride?"
She pats Aideen softly across the muzzle and shakes her head in resignation to the truth, cutting her off before she's able to reply.
"No, my dear, it isn't, and you can't. Some are bred to kill, others to protect. You would do well to play to your strengths, and become the best that you can in that role. You have so much untapped potential that lays there in wait."
The matriarch returns to her original stance, to allow the continuation of her armour to be shed.
"You don't know it yet, but one day, you shall be matriarch, in my place, Aideen. One day, you will earn that position. That day is not this day, but I feel it shall not be far off, if the storm we are to face is as bad as I fear."
The larger girl continues undressing her mistress, though she pauses at the last line, startled at hearing such.
"I never thought I'd hear you say something like that! Fear! From you of all people!"
An eyebrow perks up as Nemhain looks to her student, as if questioning her.
"Fear is not something to be ignored, and you should know this by now. A warrior who knows no fear, knows not when to back down from a fight they can not win. Fear is what gives you that extra burst of strength, when you need it most. Fear is what tells you when something is amiss. Fear is an emotional response, and it sees things the mind fails to grasp, and can whisper in your ear when you need to run, even if you don't know why. Of course I know fear, it is a great ally, if listened to at the right moment."
The remainder of the disarmouring process is spent in quiet contemplation as Aideen thinks upon the lessons she has just been given. Near the end, as she's working upon Nemhain's leg plates, however, a messenger bursts through the tent flap which passes for a crude doorway.
"Matriarch! You're needed at once! You have to... oh ****."
The larger female snarls with distaste and storms over towards the small, male, runner, with great anger upon her face.
"How dare you barge into the matriarch's tent unannounced, and even more so, you know full well the price of a male forcing his way into a female's room without permission. That you would do so to the matriarch herself, however?"
Nemhain steps up behind her servant, patting her gently upon the shoulder.
"Lay down your blade, Aideen. He would not have barged in unless it were urgent news, and considering his tone of voice, that's likely the case."
Staring in absolute shock at the nearly nude matriarch before him for a few moments, before suddenly realizing the direness of the situation he is in, the male averts his gaze and begins his report.
"Matriarch, I meant no disrespect, but I have vital news from the Dark Moons. They have found the enemy which wiped out the northern tribes, and even now, are tracking their movements nearby Mogron Pass."
He shuffles his feet slowly, unsure about the next part, but dares not to look up, for fear of his life.
"Mistress Nemhain, the Dark Moon request your presence immediately. They state only you can contend with an enemy of this strength. They say it is an unholy abomination, a musclebound skeleton clad in green flesh, accompanied by an assortment of warriors in midnight black armour."
The matriarch rests a finger to her muzzle and thinks to herself, pacing slowly around the room, the sound of her leg plates brushing past each other, the only thing left upon her body, echoing softly throughout the tent.
"A musclebound skeleton? Those fools are even less useful than I thought. We should have simply killed them off a season ago when we had the chance. Still, there may be some truth to this... after all, there are many such strange things due to the last rune war."
She turns to face the runner, and looks down at him, his size even smaller than her own, and folds her arms.
"Tell them I'll bring my best. We have lost far too many tribes already to this force to risk underestimating them. This time, they shall learn the fury of the Blood Claw. You may go now."
The runner nods and backs away, quickly out of the tent, especially careful not to raise his gaze the entire time.
"You are far too merciful, mistress."
The matriarch smirks and leans down, undoing her own leg plates by herself, against all tradition.
"Tell that to my enemies, and see if they agree."
Chapter 3: Of Snakes and Stones
Having endured the dead sands of Shurima, the Blood Claws reach the entrance of Mogron Pass. For several days, they wait, and on the fourth, their patience is rewarded with a glimpse of the enemy they had been told of by the Dark Moon runner previously.
"A musclebound skeleton clad in green skin... so they were right, after all. This ought to be interesting."
Aideen nudges Nemhain gently in the side as the matriarch mutters to herself, her finger pointing directly towards the undead monstrosity.
"By the Goddess, look at the size of the axe on that thing!"
A few moments of awkward silence later, the matriarch rests a hand upon Aideen's shoulder and grins.
"If you wanted to get the shaft that badly, we could have left you home."
A round of laughter and nudging later, at Aideen's expense, Nemhain begins to think aloud a bit more seriously.
"On the other hand, that he can carry something that large, especially with such ease, is admittedly rather impressive. I think I'm going to have to get me an axe that big for myself. Maybe two of them. Either way, this looks like he's going to be interesting to take down."
The larger Ferax woman glances over at her matriarch, tilting her head in confusion.
"So... you don't feel afraid, in the slightest? Then what was the point of that conversation a few weeks ago about how fear is a 'powerful ally'?"
Nemhain rolls over onto her back, pressing it up against the sand dune they hide behind, and sighs softly.
"If he can hold onto something that large with that little effort, consider the force and speed of the blows he can land with it."
She turns her head, looking towards Aideen's own gaze, locking eyes to her protégé's own.
"Of course I feel fear, looking at a display like that. The trick, is to not let your fear consume you, however. It tells me I need to be careful around a brute with that size, strength, and speed. If I were to listen to it fully, I'd go home, right now, and we'd be doomed to eventually losing our home in the night. No, fear is to be acknowledged, and taken heed of. It's not to be catered to, nor are you supposed to become a slave to its whims."
Sliding down the hill, the matriarch skids to a stop, leaving an indented trail of sand behind her. Turning around, she waves for the others to follow, a grin upon her lips.
"Today we face an unknown foe. In the past, you've fought a variety of creatures, some from Kumungu, some from the other Ferax, or even the occasional sand worm, or giant scorpion from Shurima."
Taking a deep breath, she meets the eyes of each of her huntresses in turn, before giving a nod and continuing.
"The foe you don't know, is a foe that will get you killed, when they do something you don't expect. As such, our plan of action is to pull away a few of them into a bit of a skirmish. We need to know their capabilities and tactics, if we're going to take on the whole force."
Using a number of blow dart guns they had brought with them, the Blood Claws begin to occasionally pelt the side of the mountain pass behind the pair of obsidian armoured guards taking up the rear.
After a few minutes of carefully aimed shots, and then darting out of view, the pair finally turns to investigate, backing off from the main group.
As they approach the corner, the scout, watching them from one of the nearby jagged cliff faces, signals to the rest of the Ferax that it's time.
The two guards cautiously turn the corner, with one being beheaded on the spot, and the other with an axe to his throat.
"So, it looks like you're not invincible after all. Now then, let's begin our little interrogation, assuming you don't want to end up like your friend over there."
Nemhain nods down toward the slumped cadaver, the black helmet still rolling gently back and forth upon the ground.
"You're going to regret that, savage. The might of Noxus is upon you, and you are nothing compared to our strength."
Wrapping her arm around the far smaller man, she lifts him up, into the air, with her hand on his shoulder, and his body squeezed tightly against her side as though he were in a one armed hug, though he soon realizes he's unable to budge an inch, and the axe is still resting soundly against his neck.
"Ah, so your tongue does speak a language of use after all. How fortunate for you. So, Noxus you say? Never heard of 'em. And by all rights, if you are an example of this so called "might", then I'm not exactly worried."
The guard spits on the ground at her feet as she speaks, still held aloft, his toes dangling above the sandy floor of the chasm.
"You can act smug all you want, but General Darius himself has authorized Sion to lead this expedition. When he notices we're missing, he's going to charge in here and slaughter each and every one of you beasts."
The matriarch makes a notable display of rolling her eyes with exasperation, before clenching her fingers tightly down, gripping the soldier by his shoulder and holding him out at arm's length before her.
"We'll see about that, little man. Still, you have already admitted you have a hierarchy, and that this 'General Darius' of which you speak, likely has a reason behind why they're here at all. You may be just a grunt, but perhaps you would know why I'm having to waste my time on this matter in the first place?"
Gradually pressing the blade of her axe into his throat, teasing the armoured plates apart, and slipping in between their protective cover to draw the first, faint traces of blood, she finds herself having to push back the urge to just decapitate her prisoner on the spot. This one has been quite talkative already, and proven himself highly useful. Still, something does seem off, even if she can't tell exactly what it is.
"Y...you mongrels don't even know, do you? Demacia is just north of these mountains... trying to reach it through Freljord has fared poorly, and Darius has decided that a show of strength in reasoning to clinch our ancient enemy will win the opinions of Noxus over to him, above that of Keiran Darkwill. You primitives are just in the way, like the barbarian tribes, and you'll be exterminated just like they shall be."
Unceremoniously dropping him onto the ground, she ponders his words, carefully digesting the full scope of the information.
"Meaning there will be an entire army wading through our lands shortly. Entertaining, but I somehow doubt the other tribes will be quite as effective at dealing with that. Actually..."
She pauses, looking down at the guardsman who had only just now gotten up and dusted his black armour off.
"You're too proud to spit off this information so easily. I'm sure you've made for a lovely distraction, however."
The soldier's face suddenly goes pale, the realization that he's been caught dawning upon him as the matriarch glances up towards her scout's position, only to see her slumped over the rocks, unmoving.
With a flash of movement, one hand severs the soldier's head from his shoulders, the other lifts her second battle axe behind her, the sound of a ricochet and a dagger being embedded into the stone wall beside her ringing out.
A furious hail of projectiles is spit into their midst, most of them directed towards Nemhain herself, though with remarkable speed she manages to deflect each away from vital areas, receiving only minor nicks and scratches as they sear past her flesh.
Within moments, it becomes apparent she's more than capable of defending herself, and the spread of fire increases greatly, additional targets opening up, her huntresses doing their best to maintain their composure and defenses, though under the steady stream of sharp objects, a few do end up faltering, and are felled.
The final dagger streaks through the air, a direct path towards Aideen's own neck, only to be grabbed straight out of the air by Nemhain's gauntlet clad fist, a snarl upon the matriarch's lips as she steps forwards and holds her palm out before her, dropping the dagger to the ground.
"Looks like you're not so easy to kill as I first suspected. Intriguing. Perhaps Swain was right to send me along on this baby sitting trip, after all."
A flash of long, flowing red hair, and the would be assassin is gone, replaced by the booming call of a war horn echoing through the passage.
"Party time. Don't take these ones lightly. Their soldiers may be weak, but they have some nasty tricks up their sleeves, and make sure to work in pairs so someone can watch your back!"
Nemhain turns to her forces, and raises her gauntlet, stained with her blood which was drawn by the dagger.
"It's times like this, that fear is felt strongest. It's the moment later that the adrenaline kicks in, and all you hear is the rush of blood in your ears, drowning out the terror. Now is the moment of truth, when one's soul is bared to the world, and your resolve is to be put to the test."
"And now, Aideen, now we fight for our very lives."
Chapter 4: Battle of Mogron Pass
The first few minutes into the fray are hectic, blades arcing through the air and weapons clashing with a sound not entirely unlike thunder.
Tooth and nail, the combatants rip into each others forces. A wave of Noxian soldiers crashes into and breaks against the Ferax assembled there, the smaller humans easily kept at bay with the enhanced reach and strength of the warrior women.
Each push is pushed back against, the battle seeming to look in favour of the Blood Claw tribe, even, for a moment. But only for a moment.
As Sion steps forwards, axe brandished in both hands, the blade begins to heat up, glowing like a searing ember just waiting to sink into flesh and taste the warmth of blood once more.
That moment of hope is over.
Running forwards, a cry of rage and anger escaping his sewn throat, still showing the scar from when he had been executed by the Demacians, the lumbering hulk of a man crashes into the Ferax formation, and this time, the line no longer holds.
A powerful blow from his axe sends a smaller woman flying across the chasm floor, her back snapping as she impacts against the stone wall, smearing blood down its surface as she falls lifelessly to the ground below.
Another swing, another kill, this time a young male, one of the most promising that Nemhain had seen before. Most of the tribes consider males beneath the station of combat, but she had seen such potential in this small boy, that she had taken him into her elite guard. Now, he was a crumpled mass upon the ground, and if he lived, would never walk again, and would simply have to be put down anyway.
The crimson blade glows brighter than ever as the undead monstrosity's rage grows, bellowing out with the joy of battle, and his gaze falls upon Aideen herself this time, her body seizing up in terror as she watches the axe blade descend towards her head.
A moment later, and someone is standing between the two, the molten edge caught within the crossed twin axes of Nemhain herself.
"Looks like I finally get to have some fun. I've been looking for someone like you to actually put up a fight."
Twisting the axes together like a pair of scissors, she guides his larger blade into the ground, and turns her body, ramming the metallic guard upon her knee into the larger man's bared gut with enough force that it would have killed any of the other Noxian soldiers present instantly.
The monstrous green fleshed war hero, however, merely grabs the matriarch by the ankle and tosses her heavy form like a toy towards the wall.
Turning mid air to balance herself, she crouches as her feet come into contact with the wall, and both axe blades swing downward, embedding into the stone surface. She drops between the pair, using the momentum to curl up against the rocky crag, and then launches herself from the vertical plane once more, ripping her weapons free and catching the giant in the back with both blades.
Flesh and sinew are ripped and torn, yet as she draws down hard, tearing through the ligaments down his back, it becomes clear that the necromantic energies which revived him, still animate Sion's corpse-body, and that he doesn't require relying on natural means of locomotion any longer. A point which is clearly made when he backhands the matriarch across the face with his axe, barely having even noticed the damage dealt to him.
"Heh, I'm only beginning to get dead serious, but now, it's time for you to just be dead."
Even as the undead monstrosity speaks, a thrusting sword drives forwards towards his form. At the final moments, as the edge is about to sink in towards his heart from the back, the blade is knocked harmlessly away, the dagger ricocheting off the flat of the blade and embedding itself in the ground.
"Ah, ah. There's only room for one assassin around here."
Staggering backwards slightly, it doesn't take long for Nemhain to right her footing, despite that her nose is quite clearly broken, and one of her fangs has been chipped partially off.
The next attack has even greater force than those before it, shoving her back even farther, though this time her axes block the blow, her digitigraded feet digging hard into the dry cracks of the earthen floor. As she looks up to anticipate the next blow, she realizes Aideen is in her own predicament with the crimson haired assassin from earlier.
A shiv is tossed, bouncing off a nearby rock and careening towards the larger Ferax's form, though this time, she manages to knock the blade away without Nemhain's help. Aideen glares with distaste, and instead brandishes her sword to handed, a downward strike upon the lithe human woman's form, only to bite into the rock where she'd been crouching moments before.
A kick lands into her back from behind, yet, with her larger frame, she's able to resist being knocked off guard, and instead rams the pommel of her sword into Katarina's face. At least, that is how it was supposed to go. Instead, empty air causes her to over extend, this time a blur of motion catches her eye, dark ribbons of movement before another kick to her side.
This time, Aideen's ready for it, and catches the Sinister Blade's leg just as she makes contact, holding onto her tightly with her arm wrapped around the appendage.
"Finally, a kill..."
Even as she speaks, however, a flash of black and red denotes what's coming, and she grips the smaller human by the ankle, tossing her directly into the air, the barrage of daggers striking the ground in all directions.
Dashing forwards with incredible speed, Nemhain slams her shoulder into her own opponent's chest, knocking the behemoth off balance, then elbows him in the side as she leaps out of the way of his incoming retaliatory strike, only to rebound from the ground and lands before her sister warrior, a pair of daggers striking her axes instead of the shoulders of her friend.
Aideen pats her mistress lightly on the shoulder, then, snarling with distaste, she leaps forwards, after the dagger wielding menace as Katarina descends to the ground, landing in a crouch upon a near by rock formation.
Blow after powerful blow are parried away, the juggernaut's powerful attacks are simply unable to connect. While the smaller human does seem to gradually tire from the barrage of attacks, and the force behind each one, it doesn't seem to stop her from landing the occasional, quick slash in herself, with considerably more effect as her own, occasional dagger strikes, do manage to land small nicks and cuts here and there through her opponent's thick fur.
Smirking at the interception, Sion levels his gaze anyway, as if he were looking straight through the matriarch to her very soul, chilling it in place. As he levels his blade to strike once more, however, she swings one of her own axes up high, and hooks the curved lower edge around the shaft, ripping his aim to the side.
"I'm made of sterner stuff than that, and a mass of necrotic flesh like you, is not about to change that."
A cry of rage issues forth from his mouth, and the green flesh begins moving towards her once more, this time with even greater determination and wrapped in a shimmering aura of light.
A potent swing from the matriarch skips off the surface, sliding across the aura as though it were an impassible barrier. A second swing soon provides little more than the same, near useless effect.
Realizing she's unable to prevent the attack, Nemhain rolls out of the way, taking the opportunity to scrape one of her axe blades across Sion's legplates, leaving a deep groove of carved metal in her wake.
In that moment, just as she rolls away, however, the world explodes around the pair.
Nemhain is tossed like a small child from the force of the blow, a shard of humanoid shrapnel careening through the air to impact against the canyon wall just behind Aideen.
As she staggers to her feet, trying to regain her senses, the Noxian assassin takes the opportunity to reach down and launch a number of her daggers from her boot sheathes.
Seeing the immediate threat towards her mistress, Aideen charges forwards to the Matriarch's side, ready to cleanse the air of the offending blades.
As they're about to strike, however, the undead monstrosity's gaze falls upon her once more, and she finds herself unable to move, her body seemingly frozen in place, as though a great, frigid hand, had reached out and chilled her to the very bone, until her body was unable to even struggle in response.
The daggers sink hard into her flesh, burrowing down hard, just below her shoulders, and embedding themselves in her scapula from the front of her body, the bone plates cracking under the assault, causing the large woman to cry out in rage and pain.
Nemhain realizes the peril all too quickly, and shoves her friend onto the ground, one of her axes falling to the ground as she clutches her head from the previous magical assault. Shaking herself to consciousness fully, once more, takes a few precious moments, and that time is all that's needed for the undead battering ram to charge towards her.
It only takes a moment for her to brace herself for the shoulder charge, though an instant before he impacts against her armour, she feels a sharp pain in her gut, as the crimson haired beauty appears behind her, a kris digging into her back.
The Matriarch's elbow reflexively connects with Katarina's face, knocking the would-be assassin backwards with enough force to hear her impact against the rocky wall, without having to turn around to check if she would be out of commission for some time.
The instant in which this takes place, however, is the instant in which Sion's own attack lands, knocking Nemhain hard to the ground, and though she rolls to lessen the crushing impact, she's still gravely off balance, and finds herself upon one knee with one arm having taken the bulk of the force, unable to even grip the hilt of her other axe which she had otherwise conveniently landed beside.
The other thing she notices, is that the heavy blade of the monstrous undead hulk of green flesh is, in fact, cascading downwards towards her skull.
With effort, she manages to pull her good arm up, the axe blade clanging loudly as it meets with Sion's own, sparks scattering into the air as the two meet each other time and again. Blow after blow, the larger of the two beats down upon the matriarch's weakened form, driving her further into a submissive pose, barely able to resist, and her arm growing tired, while the other lays limp at her side.
"By the Goddess, how is he getting all this strength? Where's it all coming from?"
The blows continue with a blur of motion, so much speed and power behind each one, and even as she blocks each one, she grows weaker with each attack, yet her enemy seems to only swell in strength, as if he were feeding off of her, somehow.
The hail of blows suddenly ceases, a brief pause in combat, with silence permeating the battlefield.
Nemhain looks up, slowly, and time seems to shift to a crawl. Her eyes lock upon the superheated edge of Sion's axe, as he raises it fully above his head, in an executioner's standing.
If she had a little strength left, just a bit more, she could cleave his waist right then and there, ending this. Try as she might, however, her arms are dead to her, even her good arm now falling to her side, leaving her kneeling, staring upwards in horror as the heavy blow comes crashing down to end her life.
She closes her eyes, and awaits the end, a single tear tracing down her cheek.
"I've failed you all..."
The sound of the blow connecting rings in her ears, and for a moment, she wonders what the afterlife will be like.
A moment later, she opens her eyes, tears blurring her vision, leaving her unable to see much other than a mass before her. As her eyes refocus into view, she realizes that Aideen had dived in and took the blow meant for her, the glowing edge of Sion's blade having driven through the larger woman's chest, and out her back, an inch from her own face, her arms unable to even lift a blade to ward off the attack due to her previous injuries.
A green hand grips the woman's lifeless body and tosses her carelessly to the side, Nemhain's gaze traveling with the corpse as it rolls haphazardly across the ground, like a puppet with it's strings suddenly just cut away.
Burning with hatred and anger, she finds her strength quickly surging back to her limbs, hands closing around the twinned axe hilts once more as she stands to face her assailant, pausing only for a moment to glance around the battlefield, noting that over half of her comrades in arms lay dead or dying around her already.
"You will pay for that. If it's the last breath I take, you will pay."
The will of the Noxian necromancers shrugs nonchalantly in response, hardly worried.
"Ha. Puny woman, rest your head, for just like me, you're utterly dea...d?"
The strength of her attack sinks into his waist, down to the spine, yet, rather than leaving her unprotected, instead she spins and takes a low swing with the second axe, this time cleaving through Sion's leg from the back of the knee, nearly severing the limb entirely.
Darkened eyes and a bristling mane of crimson hair washes over his body in a multitude of blows, each one growing more horrendous than the last. Chunks of flesh and sinew spray across the battlefield as she lays into him, screaming at the top of her lungs with murderous intent.
As she dismantles the work of the necromancers, a piece at a time, the matriarch only grows more angered and furious still. The Noxian soldiers, seeing their champion being torn asunder rush to his aid, startled that anyone, or anything, could ever fell him in the first place.
Hacking away at the lower half of the large man's body, she pauses only briefly, to tear apart enemy soldiers who fling themselves at her. Others begin to back off in fear as she watch their countrymen being torn apart, in a quite literal sense.
Throwing her axes to the ground entirely, she grips the arms of one soldier, and tears them clean off from his torso, then kicks the bloodied, still screaming body, into two others.
With her fury directed elsewhere for a moment, Sion manages to shake some sense back into himself once more, and reaches out, gripping the fury stricken woman by the shoulder, halting her progress.
Despite being severely injured, even so, his upper body strength is still staggering, and his axe swings in a heavy blow towards the grieving Ferax matriarch, only to be caught by the hilt by one of her own hands, and actually slowed to a crawl, then the swing forcibly aborted entirely.
Nemhain uses her other hand to punch into the behemoth's waist, the force of the blow sending him staggering backwards as she lands another, and then another. His axe falling to the ground, Sion blinks in confusion, unsure, entirely, of what this feeling is any longer, having been so long since he'd actually felt anything even resembling pain, the very concept little more than a hazy memory.
"You and your kind have no right to be here."
The Matriarch walks slowly towards the bestial monster of a man, pausing only to lift her twinned axes from the ground once more.
"I hereby banish you from the lands of the Ferax. If I ever, so much as smell the taint of your stench in this place again, I will personally find this Noxus of yours, and demolish it myself. Do I make myself clear?"
A movement of crimson hair, not of her own, catches her eye, but only for a moment.
"The General will not be pleased with this. You can rest assured, that your people will pay for this defiance today. You have no representative in the League of Legends, no one to stand in your place to defend your name. We will return, with an army, and you will be wiped out of existence."
Sion pauses as he grabs Chopper from the earthen floor, seemingly lost in thought.
"Maybe they are from Noxus? They fight like it."
The Sinister Blade sighs and then whistles sharply, a gesture of her hand indicating for the rest of their force to fall back, that were still alive.
"Sion... stop being a bone head."
Nemhain, however, ignores their departure, instead kneeling down, Aideen's head resting upon her lap, tracing her fingers through the hair of her fallen comrade in arms.
"Rest well, sister. You learned, at last, the burden of an assisted kill, even though it cost you your life. May the Goddess preside over you, into the depth of night."
Chapter 5: Rise of The Alpha Prioress
The crimson furred mantle lays across her shoulders, each strand plucked from a fallen enemy of a battle she presided over, then dyed in their own clotting blood.
"This day, a new age begins, for the tribes. This day, we lay down our squabbles, and our old hatreds. This day, we become a single, unified people. This day, the Ferax are reborn!"
Shouts and calls of approval echo out through the stone wrought temple walls, the open roof allowing light to pour down in upon those assembled.
Several of the matriarchs are clearly anything but amused, yet they keep their mouths shut, if not out of respect, then, at the very least, out of fear for what happened to those who had attempted to prevent this day from happening.
"And to that, we have you to thank, Nemhain, Alpha Prioress of all the tribes of the Ferax, don't we?"
The voice resonates cleanly within the walls, crisp and precise, as that of its owner.
A mighty Ferax matriarch stands before the gathering in the doorway to the temple, her form dwarfing the others nearby her as she strides forwards, with nearly nine and a half imposing feet of stature, garbed in full battle regalia, her own, hand forged rune plate shining a pearl white in stark contrast to the crimson glyphs etched upon it's surface.
"Or should I say, Sekh'vah, Nemhain?"
The newly anointed Alpha Prioress steps down from the alter, a brooding scowl across her features.
The giantess's face shows no emotion, other than, perhaps, a slight twinge of disinterest.
"Indeed. You've made your way up in the world, little sister. How quaint of you to now crown yourself, as well."
A grimace traces down her muzzle as she snarls in response, the Alpha Prioress accepting none of it.
"If you have a complaint to make of me, then make it, so called 'Heart of the Iron Tower'."
Caerwyn shrugs, glancing around at the others gathered. Priestesses, matriarchs, huntresses, every one of them.
"I come only to show my respects, Sekh'vah Nemhain. Or should I say, the lack thereof. "
The clear use of the insulting term a second time gives rise to a wave of gasps and hushed concern over the assembly.
"Still, the Iron Tower tribe accepts your authority, if nothing else."
The giantess kneels down on one leg, to bring herself even remotely close to being on eye level with the Blood Claw matriarch turned Alpha Prioress.
"I don't like you, Nemhain. My tribe doesn't like you. Too much blood has been shed between us, and we disagree on the most basic tenants of our cultures as a whole."
An enormous gauntlet rests upon the smaller woman's shoulder, to which she doesn't even attempt to avoid, standing her ground, unfazed and seemingly uncaring.
"Even so, I respect that no one else here, not even myself, could have brought the tribes together. I may hate your methods, but your results are unquestionable. The Iron Tower stands with you."
As she stands to her full, imposing height once more, she appears as though an adult in comparison to a child, when next to Nemhain herself.
"Your words have weight, Caerwyn, and you know that as well as I. I doubt we'll ever see eye to eye, at least, not without a ladder, but your message is clear. Thank you."
Nemhain turns back to the assembly and lifts one of her hands, to quiet the mumur of the crowd which has grown from the events of the last few moments.
"You have heard Caerwyn's statement, all of you. I said that our old hatred die here, today, and I meant it. In a few generations, we will not even remember what it was that once brought bloodshed amongst ourselves, anyway."
Her eyes trace across the room, nodding in a subtle gesture to herself. Now was the time.
"Though I am now classified as your leader, I fear that I must leave you, for a time."
As calls of anger and confusion arise, it's the impact of the massive rune blade of Caerwyn striking the floor that calls up silence.
"Let her speak. I am curious as to why my little sister would be so inclined as to giving up the mantle of leadership, moments after getting her hands on that taste of power, and your babbling is preventing me from hearing her out."
As silence descends upon the temple once more, Nemhain nods gently towards the far larger of the two.
"Our time for war has come, but we no longer fight a war of armies and magic. We fight a war of individuals. In The Battle of Mogron Pass, we learned of the need to defend our lands from invaders."
Murmurs of agreement ripple throughout the crowd, until silenced once more by another rapping of the mighty rune blade against the stone floor.
"To fight a war of this nature, we must fight by their rules. These rules state that, in matters of international conflict, the warring nations shall provide a champion from either side to represent their nation upon The Fields of Justice."
Nemhain breathes in deeply, and studies the reactions of those present with care, needing to show her control over the situation, and assuage fears before they can foster and breed further.
"To that end, I find I must leave you, to travel to the Institute of War. There, I shall lay claim to being the champion of our people in future conflicts, that we may no longer require open warfare to protect our lands."
Rather than discuss the matter further, and hoping to make a semi-dramatic exist, she turns, and heads towards the doorway of the temple, only to hear the scraping of sword upon stone, the edge of the rune blade resting against her throat as Caerwyn speaks.
"And just where do you think you're going, little one?"
Snarling at the interruption, and assault on her authority, she mutters under her breath in kind.
"Move out of my way, Caerwyn, or I will move you out of it on my own."
The giantess shrugs and nods towards the doorway.
"If you so desire, but if you truly intend to leave this place to represent our people, then you aren't leaving without the gift of the Iron Tower."
Two male servants, garbed only in ceremonial loincloths, and blindfolded, that they may not look upon their superiors, each hold a double edged battle axe, bristling with runes, and radiating power.
"I had the armour of those assassin trash you had fought earlier melted down into something perhaps a bit more useful to you. If you are, as you say, to be our champion, I would have you do so with nothing less than the finest in armament our people have to offer."
The smaller of the two women grips upon the hilt of either axe, one per hand, and lifts them, testing their weight. A few quick swings, and then one in kind to the blade still held against her, sees the pair with a weapon to each others throat.
"A finer weapon I've never held. Craftswomanship of the highest caliber, as always."
Caerwyn drops her blade back to the ground, allowing the smaller woman to pass through, only one word upon the giantess's lips.
Lowering her own blade in kind, Nemhain sets out, through the entrance to the temple, and towards The Institute of War, a silent prayer under her breath as she heads into the lighted path.
"Rest well, Aideen. Your sacrifice will never need be repeated again for our people, of that, I shall ensure."
Some plot points have been taken care of, and some plot holes have been filled in. Sion's no longer killed, and the fourth chapter's battle has been significantly reworked and lengthened to include a greater part to be played by both Aideen and Katarina.
The plot, specifically, now covers the most up to date information, as I'd missed that there had been an actually new Journal of Justice released semi-recently, after months without. I hadn't even noticed it slipped in there, and as such, this information has been weaved into the story in order to make it fit into the world in a more solid fashion.
TL: DR version - Longer fight scene, more people fighting in it, and plot made better.
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