3 November, 20 CLE
It frustrated me to no end. Wanting to undermine what I worked for, I couldn't believe Kat would even think to say something like that to me. I couldn't sleep, not today... Swain was coming back, and I needed to greet his arrival. Things were going to be like they were before, his word was all I needed.
I neglected to give orders to my followers for the day, too busy with other thoughts. I decided it would be best to just wait in his room until he got back. I opened the door and frantically paced the room, thinking over what I should say and how I should act. It must've been hours before I realized that I wasn't alone anymore.
"You look pale, something the matter?"
"I don't need this from you right now Leblanc. I'm anxious enough for you know who to come back... your prodding is unnecessary."
"It is because you are anxious that I tease, dear summoner."
"Fair enough." The deceiver sat down in one of the leather chairs and crossed her legs, since she was here I knew it wouldn't be long before...
The door opened. My heart sank, I didn't feel prepared.
"Leblanc... Irannius..." Was all he said before entering the room and closing the door behind himself.
"H-hello Swain, its good to see you again. How did your trip fare?"
"I feel there's still much to be done, some officials still oppose the decision to withdraw our troops from Ionia... is something wrong? You don't look well..."
"Nothing's the matter, just thrilled that you're here again."
"Is that so?" Swain arched his eyebrow at me and then exchanged the same look with Beatrice, whom rested on his shoulder. "Tell me all that's happened while I was gone. I'm eager to hear what you've been up to in my absence."
"Well, I've not done much really..." Swain didn't seem to express interest, as he casually browsed his books and walked about the room. "In fact, the only interesting thing that's happened was when Singed and Warwick tried to kidnap me."
"Yes, they sought to extort more funds from you in return for me."
"I shall have a word with them later then..."
"And I held a meeting to discuss the terms of everyone's letters-"
"You what?" Swain and Beatrice glared at Leblanc, she gazed at her lap to avoid their stare. "Please continue..."
"It was to figure out everyone's conditions so that we would all be less inconvenienced. Vladimir said that he wanted everyone to know what he was asked to do, then maybe they would watch their actions more closely."
Swain's eyes could've burned a hole into Leblanc's skin. "Understandable... and was mistress Leblanc, invited to this meeting?"
"I'm afraid not, her presence unnerved Warwick and Singed... it didn't stop her from sneaking in disguised as Urgot though. It was only a formality, turns out that Vlad seemed to have the only real contract, everyone else had to just pledge allegiance to the war effort." Swain relaxed, Leblanc let out a sigh of relief.
"That is quite the practical decision you made, it will always serve you well to know the people around you."
I remembered what Katarina said to me yesterday, and thought carefully...
"Swain, in the event that I... I don't know... failed to reflect your personal interests. What would the consequence be? Hypothetically speaking of course."
"I would wish to hear your case on the matter, and then I would seek to remedy the situation. Why the sudden curiosity?"
Leblanc seized an opportunity to speak. "I heard him conversing with Katarina last night, she said that in that event... she would be forced to kill him."
Swain's eyes darted between Leblanc and myself. "I see... is this true?"
"Did you believe her?
"Of course not."
"Yet you doubt me now to ask what I would do? Did you plan on telling me that you spoke with her?"
"I was about to just tell you, until I was so rudely interrupted." Leblanc wasn't the only one who could play that game. "That's really all I had to regale, permit me a small indulgence as I would like to know what Leblanc has been up to. I find the life of a champion much more interesting than my own."
"Yes what have you been doing with yourself Evaine?"
"I've been keep an eye on certain interests of yours Jericho, one of which happened to be knocking on Magnus' door but a couple days ago..."
"And who might that be?"
Leblanc raised her finger at me and playfully wiggled it up and down. "I was stunned, to say the least, and then I saw the two of them wander off to speak with Sona, whom you know is a Demacian..."
"I know very well who she is..."
"Care to clarify to the General what you were up to?"
"I was feeling remorse for having crippled his speaking capabilities, so I took him to the Maven in order to make things right." Swain was quiet, and neither him nor Beatrice blinked at me. I could hear his breathing becoming heavier...
"You felt pity... for him?"
"I did not intend to do him bodily impairment."
"Oh, so you felt the need to right a wrong you did? Would he have done the same to you? Tell me Irannius, do you honestly believe that my tormentors gave me a second thought as they were beating me to within an inch of my life!? Do you side with the weak and pathetic now!?"
Swain was becoming more angry by the second, I felt paralyzed.
"Weakness! You turn away from all that I have given you! Do you take for granted all that I have done? You do not deserve your title and you are unworthy of Noxus!"
"Please Swain, I didn't know that this would offend you so much-"
"Offend me? Offend... me? You wretched soul... you should feel ashamed of yourself!" Beatrice now cawed repeatedly, her feathers ruffled in her master's frustration.
"What can I do to make it right again? Please just tell me what-"
"And now you think that pleading will help! That begging me for forgiveness will grant you merciful reprieve? Is that what you think!?"
The room fell silent, Leblanc's once playful mood was now sullen and terrified. I did everything that I could to fight back my emotions. After a minute, Swain turned his back on me.
"I will need a moment to collect my thoughts, leave me."
I left the room but did not stray far. I paniced uncontrollably... was this how it would end? Me being left with nothing again? Living the life of "just another summoner"? All that I had accomplished with Swain, gone in an instant? This was all some joke, it had to have been. Any minute now Swain will walk out of his room laughing and tell me it was all in good fun... I do deserve this all though. I deserve to be nothing again... I let down Noxus, and I let down my champion. It was all Leblanc's fault! If she kept her mouth shut then we would be talking about Swain's next course of action. Damn her! What did I ever do to deserve this?
All that time spent on the fields with Swain, gone... I would be a nobody again. A nobody... just like I was before I became a summoner. My mind continued to pull itself into a depression, and I slumped down against a wall in one of the hallways of the institute. Through the corner of my eye I thought I saw Katarina.
"That ought to show him what he is without us. It will be easier now that his allegiance to you will be unquestionable. When do you plan on fetching him?"
"In a moment, theatrics must be taken with explicit care. You will have to apologize to him on your own time." Leblanc frowned at this remark.
"Apologize for what? I merely did what you asked-"
"Yes, but he must not harbor hatred towards any of us. I will not have rebellious thoughts conflicting with my plans. And so you will go on your knees before him, and beg."
"After your speech about begging being weakness? I will not bring myself to-" Swain grabbed Leblanc and held her by the throat into the air with one hand. She struggled, attempting to pull his hand back from her neck... she could feel his grip tightening.
"Swallow your pride Evaine!" He released her, and she fell to the floor. Leblanc coughed and gasped for air uncontrollably, her neck had been moments away from being crushed. Swain sighed... and held the end of his cane out to her. She cautiously grabbed it and he lifted her up gently.
"I'm sorry Jericho... I'll do as you say." He now calmly looked into her eyes, brushing her hair back with his hand.
"You and I are all that matters. I've made many sacrifices for our cause, and now I ask you to do the same. The Black Rose will endure, and through us... it will command all of Noxus."
Leblanc embraced Swain, placing her chin upon his shoulder. He kept staring forward, his cold eyes never stopped looking on.
"It would be best that I go to him now."
Was that Swain's figure approaching me? I guessed this is how it would end then.
"I subject myself to whatever decision you make Swain." He stood in front of me, I could see that he was still angry.
"Pick yourself up. I have decided to give you one more chance... under one condition."
"Anything! Anything, just say so and it shall be done!"
"You are to accompany me as I take care of more business in Noxus. Yes, that means you'll be leaving the institute... and that you and I will be gone until the 10th of December."
"I'll do it! Whatever it takes to make it back into your good graces."
"We leave tomorrow morning."
The gravity of the request now struck me completely. I wouldn't have time to say goodbye to my friends. It was a price I was willing to pay though. Swain and I would press on, and our dream would thrive.
"I'll be ready to go." He turned and slowly walked back to his room, I watched as his cane tapped the ground with every other step. I was given a second chance.
I hastened back to my room. Tomorrow we would move forward, and leave this place behind.
10 December, 20 CLE
I worked hard to regain his trust. Never again would I question a single order that he gave me.
Noxus was a captivating city, the heritage it garnered was shadowed only by its inherent mystery. The rules were simple to live by: the strong rise, the weak die, and nothing else mattered. Because of this, the city-state pushed itself beyond limits... and excelled in aspects of military and government. I wanted to have stayed longer, but it had been a month since we left and now it was time to return. We had been staying in tents amongst the outskirts of battlefields, in villas amidst the upper class of Noxus, and in carriages traveling from one location to the next. One night Leblanc had visited me and knelt down to beg for forgiveness... eventually, I too would forgive her as Swain had forgiven me.
Ionia agreed upon this day to hold the political match for their independence, and Swain would not miss such proceedings for the world. His plan had only just begun to unfold.
We arrived at the institute, and were greeted by all summoners loyal to Noxus. There must have been hundreds or more of them, and they all looked to me and to Swain... they didn't know that today would be a great defeat for us all though. Katarina, Vladimir, Sion, Leblanc, Urgot, Singed, Warwick, and their summoners had been waiting and now took their places beside us.
"Let's get this over with." Swain said coldly.
We all moved up the steps to the league, no doubt the Ionians were doing the same on the other side. If not for already knowing the outcome of the battle, I would have been filled with pride... I wondered how Swain was taking this. We continued on until at the end of the hallway we spotted the Ionians moving toward us. The entrance to the summoning platform we would be using resided in the middle of the hallway, it was customary to greet your opponents before these kinds of ceremonies. There would be no greetings from either party however, only malice. Akali, Shen, Kennen, Irelia, Master Yi, and Udyr stood before us. The tension taking residence between both groups could only be cut with a knife... One side laying down life and liberty for one chance at freedom, and the other coming to grips with their pride. Master Yi was the first to say anything.
"Good luck." The disgust in his voice was palpable, he extended his hand out towards Swain. Let it be said that even before the face of their enemies: an Ionian is honorable.
"Indeed, you'll need it." Was all Swain said before ignoring the gesture and leaving for the Noxian lounge. All other champions and summoners proceeded to their respected sides, the battle would commence in an hour.
Swain waited for both groups to be in their respected rooms before speaking to us.
"I am to understand that not only us in this room are to be fighting on behalf of Noxus... that other champions might as well. We do not get to pick who goes, but I do know the majority will be of our own. You all have your orders. Even though we are to lose, it doesn't mean that we shall hand them victory. You are to make it as difficult for them as you can. Because of your patriotism today, you have ensured for Noxus a future so strong that I could not begin to describe the glory that awaits us. For those whom this is not enough, I have taken the measures necessary to see to my end of the contracts. Fight with strength, and fight with pride... For Noxus!"
The room filled with the battle cry. Swain pulled me aside to talk to.
"We will not be in today's match Irannius."
"Wait.. why's that?"
"Because we will lose, and I can not be seen losing in a match of this magnitude."
"So what will we be doing?"
"I will be waiting here, you will be going over to the Ionians to congratulate them now."
"I'll be doing what?"
"Remember what the most important politics are?"
"The company I keep."
"Precisely, now go keep them company. Beatrice and I will still be here when the match ends."
I obeyed and left. It was a strange thing for him to ask of me, but I knew better than to question.
I carefully entered the Ionian lounge, they all glared at me. Shen seemed to be the only champion not clouded by frustration, and he spoke.
"What purpose have you here?"
"I just wanted to congratulate you on your up and coming victory."
They all looked at each other quizzically. I could understand why though, when I'm the prime summoner for Swain and I come before them to acknowledge their future independence.
"Nice try, but we are not so easily fooled. Do not mock us, or attempt to flood our minds with deception."
"I mean it though."
"How could you be so certain of our victory Irannius?" Akali now spoke, I could hear hopefulness in her voice.
"Because I am. I am not permitted to tell you why. But I felt it was necessary to be the first to say that your freedom is well deserved. All of Ionia shows great strength, the act of being here to challenge Noxian rule is proof enough that you should be left alone."
"Yi, is there truth to this summoner's words?"
"Yes Shen, I would know if he was lying... this is a strange turn of events. Am I to understand that we should still fight?"
"Of course, however the outcome is to never be doubted. This match would be an excellent way to prove to all of Ionia's willpower."
"Make no mistake, we will still despise Noxus."
"And I don't expect you to stop doing so."
Master Yi paused, and looked at all the other Ionians before speaking once more.
"You have inspired hope in us. Hope of a future where our people may live free of oppression and tyranny of a corrupt nation. A future where our children may grow to not know the horrors of war, and live the lives that none of us could have ever dreamed of. If we win, Ionia will show you friendship and hospitality... but if we lose... there will be not a single place you could hide from us. While under the heel of Noxian rule, we would end you."
"Thank you, that is a most generous offer... I will remember that when you win."
That couldn't have possibly gone any better. Swain would be pleased to know the fruits of my efforts. The battle was now under way... the Ionians bowed before they left me. I made my way back to the Noxian lounge, he was the only one still there... watching and waiting. We both had our eyes trained on the screen displaying the match.
"How did it go?"
"Very well, the Ionians trust me... now all we have to do is wait for them to win."
"We might be here for days then." Swain and I looked at each other, and laughed.
"What's the next step of the plan?"
"Patience, this is only the beginning. We have many more months ahead of us... our gaze shifts towards Demacia. I will be visiting Noxus again, and you will act on my behalf while I'm gone. No doubt you've noticed Kalamanda more than once on my maps or in conversations... that is where our dream will take us."
Our eyes fell on Udyr, whom was displaying the most zeal for winning. He proceeded from one champion to the next, dispatching them.
"It appears the match will be ending shortly..."
After a few more minutes, the match ended. As to be expected, Ionia had won. The Noxian champions and their summoners returned, their expressions were that of shame. Swain stood and applauded them, this only further dampened their spirits. There was nothing more to be said. Swain pulled me aside again and asked that I check in with the Ionians once more.
I carefully entered the room again, Shen and Akali were embracing each other... her eyes flooded with tears of joy. Udyr looked exhausted, he leaned up against the wall and all he could do was breathe heavily. Master Yi was sweating, apparently watching the match was overwhelming for him. Yi was the first to speak, passion bursting in his voice.
"FREEDOM!!! Victory for Ionia! Free at last!" He raised his sword high into the air, all Ionians mirrored his cheer.
"Congratulations... again." Yi quickly walked over and held out his hand to me, once I grabbed it he pulled our right shoulders next to each other and he patted me on the back.
"Thank you Irannius, we will honor our promise. We would be happy if you would join us in celebration."
"No no Yi, this was a victory for Ionia, enjoy it." He nodded and joined the rest as they were on their way out. I met up back with Swain.
"They agreed to trust me in the future, this could prove to be valuable."
"It could, or it could prove to be as worthless to us as their homeland. Darkwill was such a fool..."
Boram Darkwill was the Grand General of Noxus, the adequate of a monarch in their society.
"It was his order to invade Ionia, was it not?"
"It was an incompetent command, but enough of that... we have a special gift arranged for the 'winners'. Follow me to the bar."
Ionia was there celebrating already, drinks in hand. Singed managed the bar. Swain nodded at Singed, whom then brought out a plate full of glasses with the blue drink I vaguely remembered having once before.
"Go and deliver these to the victors."
"At once." I did as he asked, and of course they accepted the gift... only to fall unconscious moments later.
Swain raised a glass of scotch, "Here's to Ionia, may their victory be short-lived and bitter." All the other Noxians replied with a "here here". Then Swain nodded to Sion, and everyone but Swain and myself got up and left the bar... Sion hauled the comatose Ionians away. Once we were the only ones left, Swain shattered his glass against a wall.
"Soon Irannius... soon we will know glory. Whatever it takes. I have orders for you, I had to wait until we were alone."
"I await your command."
"You will find a box in your room containing letters marked with separate dates. Each one is to be opened on its printed date, and the instructions within are to be carried out exactly as written. Is this clear?" He stared sternly at me, this was of utmost importance.
"Yes Swain, I will not let you down."
"Good. The fate of Noxus may very well rest on you doing just that. I take my leave now..." Swain got up and began to walk away.
"Wait, when will you be back?" He turned back to face me, looked at Beatrice, and then chuckled.
"When victory awaits."
With that, Swain continued on and left once again.
25 January, 21 CLE
Swain handled all disputes regarding everything from the pettiest crime to declarations of war from neighboring tribes while in Noxus. He acquired more political popularity each week, but I knew him... he wouldn't stop there. Today I had orders to carry out. The first letter was marked for today, each bore his insignia: an ornate black rose. I opened it and carefully analyzed its contents.
"Irannius, I have arranged for your access to teleportation to be sanctioned by the institute. You are to take your followers and rendezvous with a Noxian lieutenant in our military camp located on the outskirts of Kalamanda. The coordinates are on this letter. Do not dawdle, or make any mistakes." His influence was limitless.
I met up with my followers and we made our way to the league's outer grounds, the safest place to cast a mass teleportation spell. Spells were easy enough to cast, if you were adept in the arcane arts all you had to do was will the effect to happen. It is because of sanctions that only the most privileged of summoners are allowed to teleport and alter reality. The incantation began, and my followers remained motionless as I transported ourselves to the military camp.
We arrived unscathed, not bad for my first time, and were immediately greeted by a Noxian whom appeared to be a decorated war veteran.
"Are you the one called Irannius?"
"Yes, I have business with a certain lieutenant here." He stood at attention and saluted me with his right arm across his chest.
"That would be me sir, follow me and I'll brief you on our current assignment."
We followed the man into a tent which had a large table sprawled out in the midst of it, adorned with detailed maps of the area and troop positions. He continued to speak once we were all inside.
"The General has a mission planned for you the likes of which I've never seen. If it was anyone other than Swain issuing the order, I would've reported them to High Command for being unfit to lead. No one is to know of this mission, it doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. Your task is simple by nature, but unbelievably risky."
"What do we have to do?" He pointed at a vacant room that had been carved into the #1 mine of the Loadstone Mining Corporation.
"Our spies have indicated that the Demacian miners have carved out this pocket but abandoned it due to its low yield of minerals. Notice how it is adjacent to structural columns here, here, and here." He pointed at three large cylindrical objects on the map. "Your objectives are to teleport inside this room, set explosive charges on each one of the columns, place evidence incriminating Noxus of the sabotage, and get out alive."
I wasn't expecting a task of this magnitude, but Swain needed me to do it...
"How might we plant evidence?"
"We have banners to be used at your disposal, take one of our dead as well... they couldn't be of use to us in any other way than this."
"When do we begin?"
"At night, once the miners change shifts."
"I believe I have everything I need, thank you lieutenant."
"Thanks for what?"
"...for information on the mission."
"What mission?" I took leave of the tent and had my followers collect the necessary supplies. Nightfall would be coming soon.
We were all anxious, the rest of my guards brimmed with anticipation. This took our role in Noxian affairs to a whole new level, for we would be actively participating in warfare... there was no greater honor for us. The lieutenant briefed us on how to set the explosives, they were simple enough to understand. Once we had the explosives, the banners, and the body gathered, I began the teleportation spell once more.
"We all made it, good. Get to work setting the charges on the pillars, place the body near the banners and keep them away from the blast zone... we don't want the evidence eradicated."
The cave-like room was illuminated by only a couple lanterns that were placed on wooden beams against the walls. No Demacian would ever know that we were here. We would have to work quickly, before the next shift of miners would arrive and discover us. It would be unfortunate for us if they were to suspect league summoners involved with this plot. I began my incantation again, they should all be finished soon.
Everything was set, and everyone was accounted for.
"Excellent job all. You bring victory and pride to Noxus." I finished the spell and we were transported back to the military camp.
The lieutenant approached us again, and inquired about our endeavors.
"I take it the mission was a success?" I took this opportunity to express his previous kindness back to him.
"What mission?" We smiled at each other.
I didn't need to stay to see the completed project. The further I could be from what was about to happen, the safer I'd be. One more teleportation spell for the night, then we could all retire.
To do the process so much within a brief period of time was taxing. Once we were back on institute grounds I dismissed my guards and stayed a while longer to relax by the fountain. It must've been because I was exhausted that I didn't notice Katarina sitting next to me.
"Busy night summoner?"
"If you insist on surprising me, I'll tell you now that it won't work. My whereabouts are my own business."
"I guess we'd see who's business it is if something catastrophic were to happen in the next day or so." My eyes opened wide, had she known? I started laughing nervously, buying time to regain my composure.
"This isn't a game Irannius." The spite in her tone was fully expressed upon the uttering of my name. For all her strength and skill, she still would come to me.
"Oh but you see Katarina, hahaha..." I stood up and threw my arms outward, gesturing to embrace the air. "This IS a game! Even now you and I will perform a dance of death around our words, each selecting their next sentence to have the other betray their thoughts... their feelings... their purpose. A game of risk, a game of who blinks first. This game... is why you fall short. It is because you don't recognize it, and have failed to bring your pieces with you, that I win."
"And how are you so sure that you've won?"
"Because I don't have to tell you anything." I walked away, victorious once again. I was certain that wouldn't be the last time she'd be a nuisance however. A good night's sleep was to be had, and I had earned it.
"...its time I got my pieces together then."
26 January, 21 CLE
The news was everywhere at the league. The Journal of Justice's issue # 14 "Demacian miners trapped in Kalamanda" could be found in every summoner's hands. No one knew how the "earthquake" came about though, that would change in time. I dismissed any remorse I might have held for the miners who were trapped inside, they were the enemy after all. Today felt like an excellent time to spend with my friends, and so I made my way to the cafeteria. They were there, and already talking about the news.
"That doesn't add up though, why would their #1 mine collapse so easily?"
"It wasn't easily hun, earthquake.. remember?"
"Oh hey buddy! Long time no see!"
"Hey Nina, what are those two on about?"
"Didn't you hear? There was an earthquake in Kalamanda last night, and some miners are trapped inside. Skorne and Toxic have been arguing about how it might've happened."
"Irannius, right now settle the dispute. Was it an earthquake, or was it because of hazardous and unregulated mining practices?"
"Well... to be honest, I heard it could've been an inside job."
"That's what I've heard anyway. This isn't like you guys though, to be talking about conspiracies."
"Yeah you're right, Oh! Did you hear the good news?"
"Apparently there's a lot of news I've been missing out on as of late."
"Magnus is now the prime summoner for Sona!"
"Wow! That really is good news. When did this happen?"
"They just made it official yesterday. I thought you would know already, considering you're his friend and all."
Magnus and I were friends? All I could think about was the anguish I suffered when Swain found out I helped him. This news still made me happy though.
"Yeah, Toxic and I are headed off. You and Nina should go visit and congratulate him."
"I'm not sure if that would be such a good idea-" Before I could say anything more, Nina had already taken my arm and started hauling me away to go see Magnus and Sona.
"Watch yourself bro, you're stealing my act!"
They lived together now apparently. I've heard stories about champions and summoners hooking up before, but I could never say that I knew someone who did. Nina knocked on Sona's door, and the couple answered it. Sona's face lit up when she saw me and gave me an overwhelming hug, immediately after Magnus followed suit hugging as well. Sona grabbed our hands and pulled us inside the room. We all kept each others' hands held to communicate mentally, and sat down next to Sona's bed like we had done before so long ago.
*I see you two have got along quite nicely.* Both Sona and Magnus blushed.
*Yep, thanks to you Irannius. He's my prime now, and I've never been happier.*
*Same, I guess it makes sense that a loud-mouth like me would have to lose his voice in order to hear the soft strumming of Sona's heart.* Her face grew even redder after Magnus' comment.
*Any particular reason you two decided to stop by?* Nina seized this opportunity to speak, albeit mentally.
*Irannius didn't hear how you two are champion and prime now.*
*That's surprising, the news was everywhere yesterday. What were you up to, that you didn't hear?*
*A bit of this and that, boring work actually. Swain sanctioned my use of teleportation so I was off running errands for him in different areas.*
*Did you happen by Kalamanda? I heard that it had an earthquake late last night.* I could see the sadness enveloping Sona's face, she was thinking about the miners... they were Demacian, just like her.
*I hope the miners are all right, who knows how long they'll be trapped inside.*
*I'm sorry Irannius, we don't mean to bring up such depressing topics around you.*
*It is quite all right, as Nina said before... we just came by to congratulate you. I could see no happier pair in all of Runeterra. May it last as long as you both wish it to.* They both looked at each other and smiled like a couple who was truly in love. I got up and politely took my leave, Nina followed close behind.
"Isn't it great!? You're here, those two are happy, and everything just keeps on getting better."
"I guess so."
"What's wrong buddy?"
"Sona just looked so sad when we were talking about the miners..."
"Its ok, I'm sure they're gonna be just fine. Not much they could have done... it was an earthquake after all."
"Yeah... an earthquake."
24 February, 21 CLE
Journal of Justice Issue #16, "Demacian Miners Saved in Kalamanda." While now the clues of the event had only been lightly understood, I wondered as to why Swain wanted me to detonate the mine in the first place. Officials did find the body we placed, but all we did was guarantee that Demacia would have full mining rights to Kalamanda. Why would he want to fabricate a loss for Noxus? I sat in my room contemplating the reasons for which he made such a risky move, but I realized that to understand his motives was to understand him... and that was impossible. Now the worrying began. What if the institute traced the source of the magical energy back to me? Katarina certainly could point them in the right direction, she witnessed my comings and goings that night. There was a knock on my door. My heart sank.
"Hello?" I opened my door.
"Oh, its just you Nina."
"Just me? Were you expecting somebody?"
"Nevermind, I'm just surprised is all. Where is Toxic and Skorne?"
"How should I know? I'm not their keeper, buddy."
"Would you like to come inside and tell me what's on your mind?"
"Actually, I was hoping you would accompany me."
"Sure, where are we going?"
"It will make sense when we get there." I followed Nina around the institute. We walked for a while before I started a conversation again.
"So where exactly are we going?"
"To Katarina's place."
"Wait, why? What does she want with me? We're not exactly held in high regards by each other."
"I know, but that's going to change." I didn't say anything more, this would be interesting.
We arrived at Kat's room, the door was unlocked and we entered. Nina sat down in a chair and asked me to do the same. I never took the time to actually see Katarina's room before, the only time I was in it didn't harbor good memories. It looked much like Swain's room except that it had a woman's touch to it. There were fewer books lying around, black curtains adorning the walls, and blades were mounted for display in cases. A bookshelf made a sudden clicking sound and swung open; Katarina came walking out of it and strode past us to lock the front door. Did all Noxians have a flair for secret passageways?
"Get up. Follow me." Nina and I both did as she commanded, although I seemed to be the only one to express reluctance in doing so. We walked through the bookshelf and down a spiraling staircase, it was getting damper by the second. The room we were led into felt more like a dungeon, there were no prison cells but it was cold, damp, and foreboding nonetheless. For its climate, one would've expected this room to be made of cobblestone, but it had wood flooring and couches set against the walls. There were a couple seats arranged for us, we were not the only ones there. Lying in one of the couches was Cassiopeia, Katarina's gorgon-like sister. Nina and I sat down and waited on Katarina to speak.
"You weren't followed Nina?"
"No, we're the only ones who know about this."
"Good. I knew there was a reason I wanted to make you my prime."
"Prime!? What's going on here? I demand answers."
"Speaking like that only proves how helpless you are, but I will humor you. I made Nina my prime summoner not too long ago. She definitely shows potential on the fields and her ties to certain... people... were invaluable to me."
"So that's what this is all about?"
"Calm down buddy, we just wanted to talk to you is all."
"Nina, she's trying to poison you against me! I'm leaving."
"Poisson you ssay... that happenss to be one of my sspecialtiess. Ssit down ssummoner, we're not done with you jusst yet." I did as Cassiopeia commanded. Katarina continued.
"Yes just like Nina said, all we want to do is talk. Now tell us what Swain is planning!"
"I don't know."
"It is the absolute truth, he doesn't tell me anything about what he does."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
"It did a long time ago but I've learned to trust his actions." Katarina would get nothing from me.
"I can't allow you to leave and instigate another Kalamanda, summoner. I knew it was you who detonated the mine."
"Where is your proof?"
"You leave me no choice. Fate!" Out of the corner of the room a figure appeared. He walked slowly towards our group, and paused when he was only barely revealed by the light. I looked at Nina and she avoided my gaze. Twisted Fate spoke now.
"I want to make it clear that I don't care for what's going on here. Once this is over Kat, all debts are paid. Who's the guy?" Katarina gestured towards me. "Let's get to work then."
Twisted Fate produced a deck of cards from under his sleeve and began shuffling vigorously. I tried to look towards the exit to gauge whether or not I could escape, but when I turned my head I looked directly into Cassiopeia's eyes. I quickly looked away but still remained slowed by her gaze; I wondered what might have happened to me if I kept staring.
The card master's deck now began to glow as an indigo fire enveloped the cards. The shuffling had become more violent, the cards peeled from hand to hand at an arm's length. The five of hearts fell down between all of us and scorched the floor and with another gesture of his hand, all the cards disappeared.
"Check yourselves." Katarina reached behind her back to her shoulder blade and pulled the Queen of spades off of herself. Everyone but Twisted Fate followed suit and searched themselves for their card. Nina's Jack of spades was on her neck and Cassiopeia's Queen of diamonds was on her tail. I had to search through my robe but I found the Ace of clubs over my heart.
"Where's your card Fate?"
"You're staring at it, the Ace of spades. Now give me your cards." We did as he asked while he produced the ace from his sleeve, he held all five cards to clearly see. With another gesture of his hand all five stacked up to one and lit on fire. He handed the now single card to Katarina, tipped his hat, and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The completed product was blank except that it held the faces of the four of them in a square around my own. I was amazed by the display and also afraid of what the card might hold within.
"Nice parlor trick Kat, I still don't see why there's any reason I should tell you what I've-" I was stopped. It was like my mind had been pulled out of me. And what replaced it was an absolute sense of calmness.
"Good, it worked."
"What... have you done to me?"
"I've just ensured that you would be more reasonable. With Nina, Fate, and my sister as witnesses... this card has made our will an influencing force. And what we all want right now is for you to be patient and listen... because by Noxus we will not ask you again!" Their thoughts were almost palpable. I knew that I wouldn't be able to defy them, merely hope that they wouldn't cause me to betray Swain.
"Then speak, as I have no choice but to listen."
"We all want what's best for Noxus. Me, you, Nina, Swain... but I'm not sure if he knows the magnitude of his actions. I believed you when you said that you didn't know what his plans were. But I ask that you keep in mind what is best for ALL of Noxus when you undoubtedly return to Kalamanda in the future."
"So you're asking that I be a spy of some sort?"
"Katarina, thiss ssummoner iss a wasssste of our time."
"That is my friend you're referring to Cass. Irannius wouldn't be naive enough to keep his mind closed to what we had to say."
"Enough! He has no choice. My thoughts alone will be all it takes to keep his eyes open to what's going on. Nina, show the summoner to the door." I was surprised by all that transpired, was I really not in control of my actions anymore? Katarina had gone too far but no matter how much I tried... I couldn't hate her anymore. Nina gently grabbed my arm and escorted me to the door as I paniced. Swain would consider me weak for trusting anyone but him, and now I had paid the price. I would soon pay a bigger toll in time, I thought... I prayed that Katarina be merciful and not make me forsake my allegiance. I left without saying another word to Nina. Her betrayal hurt more than any knife Katarina could have stabbed me with, but I could no longer begrudge... for that had been stolen away from me.
None of this could be mentioned to Swain.
2 March, 21 CLE
"You are to meet me at the judgement hall. By the time you read this I will already be waiting." The instructions were clear. Swain was already here and I knew that must have meant that victory awaits as well. The air became thick with the smell of dread as I neared the hall where all champions were tried for entrance. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and chills went down my spine when I saw a cloaked figure with a familiar cane in hand. That was Swain but... something seemed horribly wrong.
"What do you need me to do?" Swain showed his face to me, it beheld an expression I would never have anticipated to see. He was manic with excitement but outraged with indignation.
"Do you know of whom is about to join the league?"
"No, I did not know that we would be-"
"Of course you didn't! The pompous arrogant mewling privileged worm that he is would not want attention drawn to this event. He is every bit his father's son and worse. The lightshield's think to bestow their legacy upon the institute, and I will not let this come to pass! I've been waiting a long time for this."
"So what do you-"
"You're going to bear witness to the true strength of Noxus as I rip the life from his soft, belligerent throat. I will savor this day for as long as I draw breath." He put his hand on my shoulder and his expression reverted back to the calm and calculative look he was known for displaying.
"Where is Beatrice?" I looked past him and saw Beatrice flying toward us. She landed on his shoulder, her beak was lathered with blood.
"She's just come back from dealing with the summoner who would greet Jarvan IV. Follow me inside, he won't see you... he'll be too busy with me."
We walked into the judgment hall and it was filled with mist, I quickly ran to the side of the room and stood still as I noticed the silhouette of a man enter. The man waited expectantly, he must've already known what happens during judgments. I could feel Swain's hatred.
Swain lurched forward to Jarvan IV. The master tactician transformed into his grotesque and nightmarish raven form and attacked the Demacian. Talons sprung forth from the ground and snared Jarvan's legs, the two clashed. The prince ripped his legs from the snare and impaled Swain on his lance, I could clearly see how it punctured all the way through Swain and tore out of his back. I didn't make a sound, this was their quarrel and I would not interrupt this. I could feel Katarina's influence on me speaking into my mind, "See how he assaults the prince of Demacia? This is a clear act of war! Why do you follow him?" Apparently she was able to view what I saw. Jarvan lifted Swain above him triumphantly and dashed him against the back wall but before he could continue, Beatrice had sent beams of energy out... crippling him in place. The prince's screams were deafening, I felt like this was going too far. No! I would not intervene. Swain had every intent of killing Jarvan, I must not take this from him. The two exchanged words, Swain was taunting him... making sure to instill his complete victory even to the mind of Jarvan himself.
"You are so painfully foolish, Demacian. No tact, no finesse. It sickens me to call you my rival. I can’t wait to be rid of you, in hopes that a fitting opponent will rise to take your place." Swain transformed again, he amplified the pain that Beatrice was sending through Jarvan's body. I felt like letting out a shriek of horror as the body continued to crumple to the floor, but stayed my tongue. All of a sudden, the prince rose to his feet with extreme effort and let out the battle cry of his people... a cry that I will never forget. "DEMACIAAAAA!!" Jarvan rushed forward, abandoning his lance, and gripped Swain's throat as he pinned him to the wall.
"Tact? Finesse? In war there is only the victor and the dead, Noxian!" The two were unwilling to die before the other. Even as his blood spilled to the floor by the ravens that had been picking away at his flesh, he poured all of his strength into his grip.
"ENOUGH!!!" The voice of High Councilor Vessaria Kolminye boomed throughout the chamber. She was too focused on separating the champions that she hadn't noticed me. Swain was hauled out of the room by magical means... then all that remained was Jarvan and myself.
He clattered to the floor and struggled to hold himself up on his lance. Each wound gushed with blood, crying out for attention... but he just limped onward. I could end him, one ignite would be all that it'd take. I could kill him and then Swain's victory would be absolute. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The prince held his own against Swain despite not being prepared to do so; he had nearly died but he would not succumb until he watched the life fade from Swain's eyes. I watched as Jarvan kept limping, amazed by the strength he displayed and by the willpower he possessed. After he was gone, I was left in shock... there was much to consider, and few days to do so.
24 March, 21 CLE
I had willingly succumbed to Katarina's influence, she was right after all. Swain had openly provoked Jarvan IV, whom only sought to enter the league to represent and protect his people. Although Kat was right, that did not mean I would turn my back on my champion. I still held him in high regard, and still yearned to fulfill our dreams of a strong Noxus. But... would it be through his acts that we'd reach that goal... or would it be through Katarina? I spent most of the day pondering inside of my room. My followers were well acquainted with not being needed for whole months at a time. Later in the evening it began to rain; I always thought at my best during a downpour.
I walked outside onto the outer summoning platform and into the monsoon of water, it was dim enough that I could gaze up towards the heavens. I didn't feel the usual happiness that was derived from weather like this though.
Fizz was playfully hopping around on his staff and he let out gleeful chuckles every time he landed. Each hop provoked a new acrobatic stance, how one could watch this spectacle and not be as joyful as Fizz was beyond me... and therein lies the truth.. it was beyond me. I noticed a hunched figure over by the Urf fountain and noticed it was a dear friend of mine.
"Skorne? What are you doing out here by yourself? Where's Toxic?" He hid his face from me for a while before he finally spoke. His cheeks were absolutely soaked from the rain.
"Oh hey, I was just out here to watch Fizz jump around... He's such a show off, always likes to bring someone along so he can brag."
"Sounds like somebody I know." He punched me in the arm and we both laughed.
"What are you doing out in the rain though?"
"I've got a lot on my mind, helps me clear my thoughts when I surround myself in the deafening and consistent sound of rain."
"I hear ya. I've got quite a bit on my mind as well..."
"Care to talk about it?" He looked up at the sky and the rain splashed against his face, he looked as if ready to say something pretty personal. "I mean if you want to talk, I'm here to listen."
"Do you know how much Toxic means to me?" Very personal indeed.
"Ummm, well... I know that you love her..." He shook his head and stood up.
"I went to her earlier... and we talked. I said some things... that... made her angry with me. We both needed some space, so I left."
"What did you say to her?"
"I'm going to join the Noxian army, Irannius." My eyes went wide. Could summoners even join Noxus' military? I guessed since Noxians prided themselves with strength, only the strong could join... and Skorne was the strongest summoner I knew. I was happy that he was going to join... but Toxic...
"I understand why she would be angry. Why would you leave her to join Noxus?" He shakily grabbed his robe and clenched his hands til the knuckles were white.
"I'd never leave her!"
"Then why are you-"
"I can't... I can't tell you."
"That's bull**** and we both know it."
"Its for her own good... I have to... I must join them."
He ran off. I saw Fizz was still jumping around.
"Hey Fizz, sorry I scared away Skorne."
"You know, the summoner you brought out here to watch you perform?"
"Oh, that guy? He was here before I showed up."
25 March, 21 CLE
"Teleport to Kalamanda, meet me at the city hall. Now." The letter didn't contain a time-stamp or anything of the sort. I guess he properly gauged when I'd wake up to read it.
Kalamanda was a busy city, there were merchants occupying the streets with their carts but there was no sign of Swain. I asked a passerby where the city hall was and embarked for it immediately. There wasn't anything remarkable about the city hall, but there were Demacian flags polluting the area.
I noticed a Noxian envoy approaching, Swain was within and so was what seemed to be a prisoner. I ran to meet him but I was instead met with the tips of spears and the edges of swords.
"He's with me." Swain spoke and the soldiers stood aside, allowing me to greet him.
"What is this all about?"
"No time to explain, follow me and watch what unfolds."
I followed him, Katarina's influence began to speak to me. "Yes summoner, watch close as he undoubtedly instigates another atrocity!"
The envoy approached the city hall, today was to be a public signing of a treaty between Kalamanda and Demacia. One which entitled all mining rights to Demacia, in exchange for trade and protection for Kalamanda.
"Come to watch history unfold as you always do, Swain?" King Jarvan Lightshield III spoke calmly as he wrote his signature on the treaty. He assured the Kalamandan officials to continue with the signing.
"Yes... as I unfold it." Swain broke through the crowd that was gathered to watch the event and motioned for the prisoner to follow him. The man was a Demacian soldier by the look of it, and he appeared to be entirely defeated.
"What do you think you're doing, Noxian?" Jarvan IV interrupted.
"This man has confessed to the murder of the Noxian citizen in the mines, and the attempted framing of Noxus." So that was why Swain had me detonate the mines! So he could frame Demacia. I heard nothing from Katarina's influence. Who was this prisoner?
"Soldier" The King's compassionate voice beckoned to the man. He turned to face the royal party. "What is your name?"
"Thom, sire... Thom Garvin." He shook, and trembled before the ruler of Demacia.
"Under whose orders were you following, Thom?"
"I obeyed the commands of your son, the Prince." Outrage ensued.
"He claims so himself!" Swain didn't miss the opportunity to speak. "That the prince of Demacia ordered him to frame Noxus. A monstrous act that, even I had never thought, the Lightshield's would stoop so low as to orchestrate."
"Hand over Garvin into Demacian custody, Swain."
"This man is a key witness and can not be entrusted to either government. He should be held by Kalamandan authority, and only interrogated when representatives of both Noxus and Demacia are present." Mayor Anson Ridley of Kalamanda agreed and left to escort the prisoner away. Jarvan IV was furious.
"How dare you accuse me of such subterfuge! You're pathetic Swain! You are the one who is behind this, I'm sure of it. I would never order my men to commit such atrocities, and I have never seen this 'Thom Garvin' character in my life! Guards! Let's teach these Noxians how Demacia really deals with-"
"Silence!" The King's command was deafening, and his patient demeanor was broken. "We will leave peaceably, Jericho. We hope you will honor the league's dictates and withdraw your own forces as well."
Swain left and I followed him, along with his envoy.
"What now Swain?"
"Now, I wait. Undoubtedly the league will send their emissaries to control this escalating conflict. I'm expecting one amongst them to meet me shortly for a personal agenda."
"Would I happen to know this emissary's name?"
"Hmph." We kept walking with the envoy until Swain suddenly coughed... at once the entire host of Noxian soldiers abandoned us. Swain abruptly grabbed my arm and began leading me down one of Kalamanda's abandoned alley-ways. He threw me against the wall.
"What are you doing?"
"Hold your tongue, I would have words with Katarina." He leaned in close and stared directly at my forehead. Beatrice left Swain's shoulder and flew away. "You obviously must have forgotten just who it is you're dealing with!"
Katarina's influence was paralyzed, and I felt a sharp burning sensation emanating from my head as he continued speaking.
"You seek to disrupt that which I have set in motion? For what purpose? You care nothing for your people by choosing to oppose me, you care nothing for this summoner... Your misplaced sense of strength comes at the teachings of your father so take note of me where he has failed... there is no morality. Everything is permitted. Those who lead are the ones who do not fear doing what needs to be done, no matter the cost."
The burning sensation was now unbearable, I cried out in pain but all Swain did was hold my head still and continue to speak. I finally heard Katarina speak out from within. "Damn you Jericho."
"Damn me? I'm already damned you wretched self-entitled *****! I was damned from the moment of birth to put up with the weakness that plagued Noxus... but no longer!" I shrieked from the pain, begging him to let me go. "I will usher in a future your pathetic father was too weak to do himself." I started to black out, the pain was too much to bear and I slowly began losing the strength in my legs. Swain released me and I fell to the ground.
"And if you stand in my way again, you will share your father's fate."
There I was, in the dark again. It was different this time, I was being pulled by an unknown force. I looked around and saw my friends, they rushed toward me and frantically tried to pull me away from the sinister entity's grasp. Nothing they did helped, in the end I was torn from them... and...
I woke up in the alley and the nightmare was over... but my champion was gone. I teleported back to the institute, there were people I had to talk to.
26 March, 21 CLE
I teleported successfully into Katarina's room, I walked through the bookcase entrance into the hidden chamber to confront the sinister blade. She was present, it appeared Nina was tending to her.
"Irannius please don't do this, she can't-"
"I don't care Nina, I'm going to have my life back. Take back what you've done to me Katarina! I'm losing all I've ever worked for because of you!" Katarina was sitting in a chair hunched over with her hands over her eyes. "Are you even listening?"
"I can't see."
"Of course you can't, you've got your hands in front of your eyes." She brought her hands down and attempted to look at me.
"I can't see!" Her eyes were bloodshot, she had only shown them to me for a moment but I knew what she meant now. "Jericho did this, you weren't the only one in pain yesterday."
"You brought this on yourself! I didn't ask to be your little spy."
"You also didn't think to tell Swain about it either. Try explaining to me why you didn't do that... you can't. Because you don't want to admit that I'm right about him."
"You're right about nothing, I trust him and he's led Noxus far. Now fix what you've done or-"
"Or what? If I tell you that I will not give up influence on you when I've been rendered blind for who knows how much longer, what makes you think you can threaten me?"
I had nothing. I teleported back to my room in frustration. Why didn't I tell Swain about what Katarina did? I'm sure he would've understood that it was out of my control. How did he even find out about it to begin with? I sat down on my couch to think when I suddenly smelled something all too familiar.
"Come out from hiding Leblanc." The deceiver appeared in my room and casually lied down on the couch across my lap.
"What gave me away?"
"And what is it?"
"Awww... me patronize you? Well I'd never. Anyhow, Swain sent me. He wants you to know that it wasn't your fault... for what happened to you."
"Really? That is actually really great to hear. Did he say anything else?"
"Yes, that he also apologizes for having put you through that kind of pain. That it wasn't intentional and he'll make it up to you somehow." I definitely needed to hear all of this.
"Its been rough these last few days."
"We both know, and that's why he wanted you to hear this as soon as possible. Any more questions before I go?"
"No, that was all I needed to hear." Leblanc vanished. With my mind at ease, I decided to discard any remaining thoughts on the matter. I wondered how he'd make it up to me.
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