Archive | June, 2012

Riven: Crimson Elite – 12

30 Jun

Riven was the first one back to cave. She steeled herself, ready to confront Talon, but she already knew that she would be staying with him. He genuinely seemed to believe that Noxus could be a power, and Riven believed he could do it. She only had to wait a few hours before she heard Talon climbing the cliff, talking to someone. She was immediately on alert, knowing that if were Vlad he would have come in by blood travel. When he finally got to the mouth of the cave, she saw Katarina walk in behind him. “Riven!” He exclaimed, “So you succeeded.” He was smiling, but faltered when he saw her expression. “Ah, you’ve found out. Listen –“ “Look, I understand why you did it,” Riven interrupted, “but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. I have chosen to follow you because I want to unite Noxus. I want us to be the power in the land. What I don’t want is to have a regime change just for the sake of it.” Talon looked at her and said seriously, “I completely agree. It was not an easy choice for me to make, and I lied to you because I needed your full cooperation. I’m sorry it had to be that way, but I could not have you hesitating. It needed to be done” His expression lightened slightly and he said, “Now, we just need to wait for our friend Vladimir to get here. He has presents for each of us, so in the meantime, rest up!”

Talon went on to explain the details of his mission, answering Riven’s questions about their extra member. After several hours, Talon went hunting out in the forest, leaving Riven and Katarina sitting there. They did not speak to each other, Riven preferring to sit in silence. Just when she had started to drift off, she heard an odd squelching noise in the corner and saw Vlad teleporting in. She was excited to see him, but saw him getting ready to attack Katarina. She quickly stepped in to stop him from hurting her, and Talon walked in right then. She sat there as Vladimir repeated the process she had just gone through of catching up on events and Vlad handed out armor. She liked hers, but refused to wear the helmet. She didn’t like the gaudy ornamentation on it, and felt it would narrow her field of view. After all the niceties and catching up happened, the group gathered around the table and began planning their infiltration of Noxus.

“Normally,” Talon began, “I would be telling you all your parts separately, so you would not be able to break under torture. For this mission, however, if any of us were to fail, the whole thing fails. This means we need to work together closely, and there can be no mistakes.” “The participants agreed, and Talon pressed on. “Now, for first stage, we have Katarina. She is going to go back and report that I ambushed her, exactly as I did. The difference will be, she will report my death at her hands. I will have fallen off the bridge and because of this, security will be much more lax than it has been.” Katarina nodded her understanding and then said, “This is true, and I have complete control of the guard. I will be moving them to the square in the center of town, based on a rumor that I will have picked up.” Talon smiled and she continued. “That will leave a token group of guards actually surrounding Darkwill, although I’d be surprised if Darius wasn’t there. General Swain is out overseeing the defensive preparations in southern Ionia, so this is a fine time to strike anyways.”

Talon switched his focus to Riven and Vladimir. “You two will be directly escorting me, pushing our way in. Vlad, I know you have blood runes around the city, so you will be our main method of transportation. There are ten floors that we’re going to have to make our way through, though as it stands we will only really find opposition on three floors. The ground floor should have a rather large security contingent to prevent anyone from entering. The ninth floor is where the sleeping quarters for higher ranking warriors are held, and it’s probable we’ll have to deal with them there. The top floor is where Darkwill’s chambers are located.” He looked back and forth between the two of them. “Obviously, this is going to be dangerous. I may have to leave one, or both of you behind to deal with whatever is in our way, because our only goal here is Darkwill. With him gone, the way to the Noxian throne is open. It’s very possible that some of us will die here. Do we all understand this?” Riven nodded her agreement, feeling confident that she would not fall. She looked over to Vlad, and was surprised to see him looking uncomfortable. “Yes, I understand,” he said softly. Riven was intrigued and wanted to ask what was troubling him, but decided it would be better to wait.

“Perfect. We begin at midnight tonight, so make certain you are prepared.” With that, they realized they were dismissed and Vlad and Riven got up. They left the cave together and began to take a walk through the wilderness. “So, what happened with you and the food storage facility?” Vlad asked as soon as they were out of earshot. “When you went to retrieve the armors, I was told I was going to destroy a weapons facility. As you know, it ended up being food storage. I’m still uncomfortable with the damage this will bring to Noxus, but I must admit, rumors of hunger and tension are already spreading. Talon created the perfect climate for a coup.” Vlad looked over at her, “Yeah, this plan is pretty fantastic from a logistics point of view, but I can’t help feeling that something is off. His pulse quickens whenever he starts talking about this plan. Maybe it’s just excitement about a big operation, but it just feels like there’s something more.” His voice trailed off and she could tell he was worried, but she smiled reassuringly at him. “Well, as long as you and I watch each other’s backs, there should be nothing to worry about right?”

She looked over at him and playfully grabbed his arm, “Now what about this? When you left you looked like you weighed less than a hundred pounds, and you come back as the most ripped man in Noxus?” He laughed sincerely, and the sound was good for Riven to hear. She hadn’t been truly happy since her country had betrayed her, and being with Vlad was like being back with her squad. “Oh, you know, a little of this, a little of that… a little of the blood of a thousand souls empowering me.” His teasing grin was the same as ever, and Riven knew that he’d only changed physically. He caught her eye and said with a straight face, “Care to make a donation?” Riven burst out laughing and all the tension of the meeting and their upcoming plan drained in one instant. They wandered for another hour until they came upon a tree that had a low hanging branch, perfect for sitting on. They collapsed down next to each other and sat there in silence, enjoying their surroundings.

“Do you trust him yet?” Riven asked after a while. “No.” Vlad said quickly. “He is a man who is loyal to himself alone, but nothing has changed. He needs us. Plus, we have both showed him loyalty, which he would be stupid to discount.” Riven nodded and thought to herself, ‘Do I trust you yet?’ She knew the answer was yes. She would trust Vlad with her life at this point. “And what about Katarina? What’s your take on her?” Vlad considered a moment and then said, “Surprisingly, I think she was the only one in that meeting without any doubts. She fully believes in Talon, but you know what they say. Converts always make the biggest fanatics. I don’t think we have anything to worry about from her.” They sat there for a while longer in a comfortable silence until the sun started to set.

“We better get back so we can prepare properly,” said Riven. Vlad got up and walked beside her, and the two friends walked back towards the cave. Now that they had a plan, the air seemed charge, ready to burst. They had reached the calm before the storm.

Vladimir: Crimson Elite – 11

29 Jun

The pain was agonizing. It felt as though his world was spinning around, nothing like the sensation blood travel normally gave him. This was supposed to be a place of peace, where he felt centered. This burning had violated his sanctuary and he could think of nothing else. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, Vlad appeared inside the dining room of his temple home. He threw the box of armors he had retrieved off to the side before staggering to the staircase that led to the basement area. Though no sunlight reached these rooms, it made no difference to Vladimir, whose eyes felt as though they were simply dark holes in his once fine visage. He was barely able to stay on his feet as he made his way down the stairs to the pools of blood that adorned the depths of his home. The blood of every sacrifice ever made for the cause of the hemomancers lay down there, for just such an occasion. He collapsed as he hit the bottom of the stairway, knowing he only had moments left before he would die if he did not make it to the pools.

He felt the blood pulsing around him, and managed to crawl his way to the narrow walkway. With the last of his strength, he threw himself off the side, into the pool. For days, the chamber was still, with no discernible movement. Finally, a broad shouldered figure began to float out of the pool. His eyes glowed red, burning embers in the otherwise pitch black room. “Excellent.” The voice that came out of the large man was deep and self-assured. Vladimir lifted himself onto the walkway using a pathway of blood and admired his new figure. Inside the pool he had opened every pore in his body, inviting the blood of thousands to mix with his. It had transformed him, and made him stronger physiologically and magically.

The Crimson Reaper stood there a moment, feeling better than he could ever remember before heading back upstairs. He lit a fire and the room was bathed in an orange light that cast long shadows upon the floor. Vladimir looked towards the box he had thrown away and went to pick it up. Even his walk had matured, his arms swinging powerfully and his strides seeming purposeful. He examined the armor that had been meant for him and was pleasantly surprised. He quickly tried it on and realized that the armor had adjusted itself to fit him. He was impressed. The blacksmith who had crafted these was clearly a master. ‘I should find out his name in case I ever need anything else,’ thought the Blood Lord. He walked over to the large mirror hanging on the wall to examine himself.

He saw a black body suit, made of the same diamond material that somehow flowed perfectly with that other plates on him. It allowed for unrestricted movement, which Vladimir was thankful for. Set on the body suit was a skeletal looking metal coating that culminated in a ruby focusing crystal on his chest. Sprouting off of this were metal plates covering his shoulders. The pauldrons sported wicked looking spikes and a large red cape flowing out of the back. Vladimir was pleased with the armor and the transformation in general. He made a point to remember to thank Cassiopeia the next time he saw her, even if it was right before he killed her.

After he had viewed himself thoroughly, Vladimir gathered the rest of the armor back up and walked over to his blood runes. He hoped that everyone would be at the cave, and he was looking forward to the reunion with Riven. He had bonded with her during their short time together and was pleased that she was not disgusted by his abilities. He again began to melt into his oblivion and was delighted that the old sensation had returned. As he regained corporeal form in the cave he looked around. Sitting there at the table he saw Katarina and he dropped the armor where he was. As he was preparing to attack a voice yelled from the side, “Vlad, NO!” He looked over and saw Riven lunging toward him, trying to stop him from attacking. “What the hell is she doing here?” Vlad asked incredulously. “We’ll explain in a minute, just calm down!” Riven looked worried, but the hemomancer relaxed a bit and said, “Ok. This oughta be good.” He walked over to the table and intentionally sat on the other side from Katarina, never taking his eyes off her.

At this moment Talon walked in and a grin spread across his face when he saw Vladimir sitting there. “Vlad, welcome back. Judging from the armor you’re sporting, I take it you were successful?” Vlad indicated towards the dropped armors and Talon retrieved them quickly. He laughed gleefully, “These are even better than I could’ve hoped for!” He immediately took his out and began to put his on when Vlad interrupted, “Not to kill your thunder, but why is she here?” He nodded towards Katarina and Talon said, “Of course, let me fill you in.” Vlad learned of what his partners had been up to, hearing of their movements in detail. When Riven’s deeds were being discussed she looked grim, but when he looked over at her, she almost imperceptibly shook her head. He took his queue and stayed silent, merely impressed at the entirety of the plan.

Once their small meeting was done, everyone went to get their armors on and Vlad was impressed. That Talon had possessed the foresight to order one for Katarina long before she had joined was astonishing, and she looked ravishing in her new smooth black armor. Talon looked at her and remarked, “Well, High Commander Katarina, what do you think?” She looked slightly taken aback at the name and then smiled. “I think that you’re frighteningly good at knowing how people react, but excited. I believe this is simply more proof I’m on the correct side.” Talon looked smug at this and Vlad had to admit, she had a point. “And you, Riven? What do you think?” Talon looked over expectantly at her. Riven’s armor was simple, a black set of armor with a little ornamentation on the chest and shoulders. She wore a red shawl over it that managed to cover what she was doing with her arms until it was too late for an enemy to react, and she looked moderately pleased with the outcome. “These will be effective, but I have no desire to wear that helmet.” She pointed at the remaining piece on the ground and Talon winced; no doubt thinking of the cost that had gone into its production.

He quickly recovered and said, “That’s fine, no need to make you uncomfortable. As I’m sure you can guess, our last piece here is for Cassiopeia, who has rejoined us now thanks to our new ally.” He smiled at Katarina who nodded her acknowledgement. “Now, the seeds of rebellion have been sown. Let’s make sure that we’re the ones who can reap the benefits.” With that, the Crimson Elite sat around the table and began planning their assault on the Noxian High Command.

Riven: Crimson Elite – 10

29 Jun

The Exile staggered to her feet. What had she done, what could she do now? The only thought on her mind was to run, far away, where none of this would matter anymore. As she ran west, leaving city lines, she a heard a manic voice yell, “Hey! Where are you going, let’s blow this joint!” She turned her head and saw Ziggs, the Yordle with a penchant for destruction, in a hovering vehicle, flying towards her. “Come on, come on, come on!” The Yordle seemed hyped up, excited by what he had just done, and Riven had no wish to continue with him. “Leave me, we will escape separately.” The pint-sized demolitions expert shrugged and then banked sharply, flying off north towards Piltover. Riven decided to blank her mind and simply carry on for now. She chose to get to the Howling Marsh, a place where none would follow, and would decide what to do next from there.

She ran for nearly a day straight, barely pausing at all, and when she finally made camp in the marsh, she fell asleep almost instantly. When she finally woke up, she was thankful her sleep had been dreamless; a godsend in the state she was in. She finally sat there and took the time to reflect on what had just happened. She realized now that she had been played by Talon from the start. He knew exactly how to manipulate her, knowing her fury at the weapons would take over her caution. ‘To be honest,’ she thought, ‘he is the ideal Noxian leader. He’s cunning, a gifted warrior, and had a brilliant plan.’ She knew that by destroying the food supply, Noxians everywhere would become angry. Starvation was one of the quickest ways to incite a riot, and Talon had just hit a masterstroke. Faith in the current leadership would be at a low, and that creates a window of opportunity. He would be able to strike out, and either through violence or even just political maneuvering, he could slip in and fill the power vacuum left at the top.

Riven was begrudgingly impressed with Talon’s plan, but this did nothing to lessen her guilt. She was far too familiar with the way the Noxian mind worked to be upset with him for lying to her, but she could not get over her role in the destruction. She sat there feeling sorry for herself, allowing the guilt to be overwhelm her. The squad in the Ionian war, the people of Noxus and her own life falling to pieces around her hit her like a tidal wave. She used her much needed time in the wilderness to let all the pent up emotion and pain out. She sat there, sobbing silently for long time until there was nothing left inside her but a fierce determination. While Talon may not have been much different from the other rulers, she had chosen her path when she sided with him. She would support him in his efforts to rule Noxus, and be a loyal advisor. Hopefully this would allow her to have an opinion about his choices and could stop him from committing more atrocities, repeating the mistakes of the old rule. She decided she would waste no more time feeling bad for the past and instead looked to the future.

A short ways off, a voice cried out, “Back lich! You have faced nothing like me.” Riven was taken aback. She thought she was alone in this wilderness and wondered what was happening. Quickly and quietly, she stole over and glanced through a thicket of bushes to see a dragon fighting a lich. The dragon’s scales shone orange and red as the light danced across them, a stark contrast to the blood red robes and black skin of the lich. The dragon was dancing in and out of range, attempting to dodge pinkish orbs that flew at her from the lich’s staff. The lich laid an orb directly behind the dragon, causing it to dodge forward to bite him. Just as the dragon closed in, a magical wall appeared in front of the beast, causing her to revert to a blue skinned humanoid. Riven was taken aback, but knew that the magnificent creature was in trouble. She leapt out from behind the trees and drew her blade. Upon seeing a new competitor the lich quickly backed away. He threw another magical wall up and disappeared behind it into the darkness.

“Thank you, stranger.” The blue skinned woman had a deep, compassionate voice. ‘A little surprising for a half-dragon,’ thought Riven. “No problem, but what happened here? Why would you go after a lich alone?” The dragon sighed, “Alas, that was my own fault. I merely came to these woods to have a little time away from society and attempt to stay in touch with my dragon’s roots in a constructive manner. I did not realize that such evil lay here. Before we speak further, we should leave in case that monstrosity decides to come back.” They traveled quite a ways in silence, Riven sensing that she could trust this mysterious woman instantly. “Now then, I am Shyvana, elite guard to Prince Jarvan IV. Who might you be, friend?” Riven inhaled sharply, then replied, “I am Riven, formerly a commander in the Noxian army.” Half-expecting a fight, she kept her hand close to her sword, but the half-dragon made no threatening movements.

“I have heard of you, although you are now called Riven the Exile, are you not?” Riven simply shrugged and sat down heavily on a nearby rock. “I didn’t realize that was my new title, but it’s fitting.” Shyvana seemed to understand that she didn’t wish to discuss it and merely stood there watching the Exile closely. Abruptly she changed the subject, “Why do you fight with a broken blade?” Riven was slightly startled by the switch, but answered, “I don’t know. I like my rune blade, we’ve been through a lot together, and not to brag, but I can still do a fair amount of damage with it.” Shyvana considered this before saying, “I have heard tell of rune blades being forged anew if their wielder is talented enough. They are a curious weapon in how closely they are tied to their users. The utmost concentration is required, but you strike me as someone who is a quick learner. Something about your scent is… intelligent.” Riven wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but was very intrigued about her sword. “You’re telling me that if I concentrate hard enough in a battle I can re-forge my runeblade to its full length?”

“I have only heard speculation, but yes. I believe if you focus your emotions and energies into it that completing it should be possible.” Shyvana finally sat down on a rock next to Riven and the two engaged in long conversation. Riven relayed the events of the past few weeks, leaving out only the items of the Crimson Elite, explaining her presence in the swamp away by saying she needed time away as well. Shyvana furrowed her brow at this, possibly sensing she was lying, or omitting part of the truth, but said nothing. At this point, Shyvana told of her upbringing as part of the dragons’ culture before her father’s death for having spawned a half-dragon. Then she told of Demacia and its ideals of honor and service winning her over with Jarvan IV personally repeatedly demonstrating these qualities over time . Riven was shocked at how much she and this Demacian had in common, but said nothing, choosing to listen rather than speak.

After a long while Riven turned towards the half-dragon and said, “It was a true pleasure meeting you today, Shyvana. I sincerely hope our paths cross again somewhere other than the battlefield.” Shyvana chuckled and said, “You as well, Riven. If you ever find yourself in need of a place to stay, I will personally welcome you with open arms.” With that, the dragon turned away and started back home while Riven contemplated the strange luck she had by finding a friend out here.

Finally, she began to head back to the cave that had become the Crimson Elite’s meeting place. She felt as though ages had passed since the events at the food storage facility and walked with a newfound sense of purpose. She had always thought that the Demacian brand of justice was tyrannical and supported the weak far too much to be effective, and subsequently was surprised at how much of what Shyvana said made sense. She shook the thought out of her head and prepared for her next meeting with Talon.

Talon: Crimson Elite – 9

28 Jun

Talon almost felt guilty about lying to Riven like that. She would surely find out soon enough that she was not destroying a weapons manufacturing plant. ‘Well, this way I can discern her state of mind. If she comes back, I have a loyal soldier and lieutenant. If not, she did the job I needed her to and becomes inconsequential.’ Satisfied with this reasoning, Talon began to prepare for his own journey. Through various means, he had gathered intelligence stating that the Noxian push in Ionia had finally been stalled and that there was to be a League meeting to decide the final outcome. Surprisingly to the public, Katarina had not been chosen as part of the battle, despite being one of Noxus’ finest warriors. Talon had been able to ascertain the true reason she was indisposed. She was leading a group of Noxian assassins to execute two important Demacian diplomats on their way to Bandle City. The Yordle homeland and the Demacians had not been in good standing lately, and Noxus had a large interest in keeping it that way.

Talon was sure that Vladimir would succeed in his mission, and wished he had time to wait for his new armor. Unfortunately, Katarina had a day’s head start as well as a hefty lead distance-wise, so there was no time to waste. He left in a hurry and started towards the Mogron Pass in the Tempest Flat cliffs. He knew he had to beat Katarina and the traveling diplomats there, because once Katarina had finished the job there’d be no distractions for him to take advantage of. He made swift progress, and after two hard days progress, found himself at Mogron Pass. He immediately took stock of the area and debated his options. The Proving Grounds stood tall and majestic in front of him. The bridge was a relic of the rune wars; the summoners used to wage war atop the bridge when they needed to pass north to south, but these days it was used to train novice summoners for the league. It stood across a chasm and it’s terrain was impassable were it not for the amateur field of justice.

Assessing the surrounding area Talon decided he could make an ambush at the top of the area and would kill the Demacian representatives before Katarina even got there. He agreed with the Noxian high command that Demacia and Bandle City should not remedy their differences. Despite this, he knew that if he managed the feat first Katarina would be momentarily put off, and that would be his time to strike. He climbed the tower and reached the top, finding the perfect corner for his cloak to hide him in. The Demacian representatives were not far behind and after less than an hour, Talon was poised, ready to strike. The delegation passed and with a flourish of his cloak the Blade’s Shadow was able to decapitate half the guard, disembowel two others and had the two ambassadors at his disposal. The begged for mercy, but Talon merely smiled and said cruelly, “Not today ambassadors”.

He cleaned off his blades and prepared for the arrival of the Noxian delegation. He hid in the corner near the door, hiding himself under the cloak again. Katarina arrived in less than two minutes, a small contingent of Noxian soldiers following her. Talon listened carefully and determined by the footsteps that she had only brought a group of three with her. He had every tactical advantage possible, for he knew exactly the way they were trained, while they had no clue he was there. Katarina immediately stopped and studied her surroundings. She was intelligent and knew that the Demacians had not fallen to phantom blades in the night. Talon saw the suspicion on her face and waited for his moment. She walked slowly onto the bridge, head on a swivel. She was waiting for an attack that wouldn’t come, and finally, satisfied that whatever had attacked the contingent was gone, she went to check on the downed party in front of her. As she was kneeling to check the pulse of the diplomats, Talon made his move. Before the assassins even saw him move, he was behind one, slitting his throat.

The other two looked at their falling comrade and that one moment of distraction was all Talon needed. Before they could so much as bring out their weapons to defend themselves, blades had been plunged deep into their backs, and they slumped forward. Katarina turned and looked at Talon. He saw the fear in her eyes for a moment before she quickly regained composure and said, “Talon, why bother coming for these two? You obviously knew Noxus was sending me to do the same job.” She seemed more curious now, knowing he would give her the professional courtesy not to kill her with cheap tricks. “Well Katarina, that is just something you and I will discuss in fifteen seconds when I have my blade to your throat. Then I will be ready to talk.” Katarina looked incensed and quicker than eyes could follow she had unsheathed the knives lining her legs and threw them at the rogue assassin. Talon was already dodging underneath and sliding towards her on his knees. This was a dangerous battleground, for on this narrow bridge there was not much room to move, let alone dodge, but Talon had earned his deadly reputation for a reason.

He flung his tethered blades and her, forcing her to dive backwards to avoid them, but saw her land on the balls of her feet, ready to spring forward. He smiled, knowing he had read her perfectly and waited. She dove at him, almost appearing to teleport, turning in midair to strike him. Unfortunately for the woman of Noxus, Talon was familiar with her technique and used the side wall of the bridge to end up behind her. He held his blade to her neck and pressed down lightly. The hours he had spent painstakingly sharpening his tools showed as a dribble of blood began to slide down Katarina’s neck, and Talon smiled. “Now, as I said, we are in the position I like to negotiate from.” He did not bother holding down her arms, knowing as well as she did that if she moved a muscle her head would be rolling on the floor.

“What do you want, traitor?” Katarina hissed. “Traitor? That seems a little harsh considering my aims. You knew your father better than anyone, and all I’m doing is continuing his work with a little more vigor.” Katarina considered, but remained silent, no doubt cognizant of the dangers disagreeing might bring. “I am not aiming to bring down Noxus, nor change any of its ideals. My only goal is to have a change of leadership; with myself at the helm of course.” Katarina scoffed, “And what makes you think you’re entitled to lead? You think you can do a better job than Boram Darkwill?” Talon paused for effect, “I believe I will do better because I would put an end to the endless Noxian squabbling for power. We would already rule this land if we could put an end to this endless infighting!”

“Your father wanted a united Noxus, one that would fight external threats rather than internal ones. His goal was to use me to bring about this new age of power, but unfortunately Darkwill caught wind of it and eliminated him first.” Katarina narrowed her eyes and said, “How do you know that?” “I witnessed it with my own eyes. He brought in a full execution team to deal with the two of us, and while I was fighting off the guards, Darkwill ganged up on him and slew him with his own blade.” Katarina gasped and her eyes grew empty as she pictured her father’s death at the hands of her fellow Noxians. Talon had no idea what the true circumstances behind her father’s death were, but he was pleased that his story had its intended effect. She took a moment to compose herself before finally saying, “I have long agreed with the philosophy you’re explaining Talon. With your combat skill and obvious political talent, I believe you may be the one to unite us at last. Consider me and my skills at your disposal…” She hesitated, “Brother.”

Riven: Crimson Elite – 8

27 Jun

Riven watched Vlad sink into the ground and out of sight. She was confident he would complete his mission, yet a feeling of unease hung over her. Still staring at the spot where he had left, she shook off her misgivings and focused back on her leader’s instructions. “What do you need me to do, Talon?” Talon paused before saying, “I have a… specialized job for you to do. I’m not going to lie to you. It will likely involve a lot of killing, and will be extremely difficult. I need you to do it because I have faith in your abilities to cause some destruction while keeping yourself away from harm.” He stared at her, waiting to see her reaction, but she merely watched him back. He pressed on, “There is storehouse where a secret Noxian weapon is being hidden. It lies in the small village of Askay, just at the base of this mountain.” For the first time, Riven’s face betrayed her interest. “So am I steal something out of this place, or simply take it down?” Talon’s pleasure at her reaction was evident. “I want you to take down every bit of it. Leave no remains at all.”

Riven thought about it for a second, “So what am I to do, slash it to the ground with my poor broken sword?” The Blade’s Shadow chuckled, “No, I wouldn’t expect even you to do that. I have a contact who will meet you there. Do you know of Ziggs, the Hexplosives Expert?” Riven was taken aback. “I thought he was firmly on the Piltovian side, how on earth did you hire him.” “Let’s say he’s more dedicated to his hexplosives than his new home. When I contacted him about this, he jumped at the chance. Of course, he thinks that we’re upset with Noxus and hope to bring them down, so it would be wise not to dissuade him of that notion.” Riven thought about what was being asked of her and was fairly excited. She couldn’t help but enjoy the idea of destroying those weapons that had torn her world apart. “I’ll do it. When am I meeting with him?” “You will meet him at an inn on the outskirts of town. It should only take you half a day’s travel to get there, and I’d like you to meet with him at sundown. Rest up and get ready for the evening.”

Two hours later, after having rested and eaten, she got up to leave. Before she could leave the cave, Talon caught hold of her arm and said, “This is the start, Riven. This is when Noxus becomes the place we’ve all wanted it to be.” Riven smiled, heartened by these words and gave him a nod, setting off with a brisk pace. The journey seemed to fly by, and before she knew it, Riven sat inside the inn on the outskirts of town. She saw the factory coming in, and was impressed with the size of it. She was surprised that it would be out here, considering the land was surrounded by farming areas and livestock. ‘Well, I suppose a weapons factory does need a lot of people working there,’ Riven thought to herself. After an hour, she saw a Yordle wearing goggles walk into the establishment. She regarded him a moment, and was half amused. He was dressed in body armor almost from head to foot, and had a giant cartoonish bomb strapped to his back. She knew by reputation that he was actually the foremost explosives expert on Valoran, but his strange appearance was comical nonetheless.

She caught his eye and hailed him over. As he sat down, the Yordle said, “This’ll be a blast.” He grinned with one of the biggest smiles Riven had ever seen and the two got down to work. After an hour of deliberation, Riven knew that her job was to assault the compound from the front, drawing the guards’ attention away. Ziggs would infiltrate the compound from the backside, using a low impact charge to bounce himself over the fence. From there, he would proceed to place bombs all around the warehouse and bring it down in one large explosion after the two were at a safe distance. It seemed pretty simple, and the main reason it should work was the element of surprise. Noxus simply didn’t think Talon knew anything about these weapons, and Grand General Darkwill had a habit of underestimating his enemies. Riven and Ziggs decided on a time to strike and the Yordle left Riven sitting at the table, biding her time.

She became restless, wishing her time to act would get there. Her mind drifted to the day she had been betrayed by her country and rage began to fester inside of her. Her resolve to take down the weaponry grew with each passing minute and when her moment finally came, she was ready. Walking through town, she looked at each face and realized most of these people knew this factory was there and did nothing to stop it. She was disgusted, but nothing would come between her and her goal right now. After a short walk she reached the front of the compound and walked up to the only opening in the barbed wire fence. A guard post sat there, filled with a group of four men who stood up quickly upon seeing the approaching woman.

“You there, stop! This is Noxian government property, and you’re gonna wanna turn away right now lady.” Riven unsheathed her sword and smiled the same grim smile she always wore before a fight. “I will not turn away, and I’d like to see you stop me.” The guards grew angry and charged at the impudent woman who stood before them. Riven quickly dodged out of the way of the first guard and thrust her blade into his neck. She had no time to admire her handiwork, as the next two swung at her high and low. She jumped above one, while ducking the other and concentrated on releasing her pent up energy. It stunned both guards momentarily, and she slashed at the unfortunate pair three times. They fell, dead before they hit the ground and an alarm began to go off in the background. Suddenly a group of fifteen more guards came running out of a barracks inside the compound and looked around. They spotted Riven and headed over, and she couldn’t help but think the entire group’s armor was severely lacking for such an important facility.

She shrugged off the thought and focused again, knowing she would need to keep moving to negate their advantage of numbers. She began to run away, dashing this way and that, taunting them to come after her. Whenever one would get too close she would suddenly fly back in with her signature triple slice, and kill them instantly. After a few minutes, Riven found herself several hundred yards away from the compound with fallen corpses dotting the landscape between them. Only seven of the original nineteen remained and she stopped. ‘Only three minutes left before the Yordle gets to light his fuse,’ Riven mused. The guards kept their distance, clearly having learned that she was not one to be trifled with. “What do you want here? Why would you come and attack our village?” “You know what you’ve done you filthy vermin. My burdens of the past started because of places like this. Your weapons are used on Noxian soldiers as well as the enemy. Total annihilation should not be the goal of warfare!” The guards looked stunned. “Weapons? What are you talking about? This is the food storage facility for the entire land of Noxus.”

At that moment a blast that lit up the night sky formed brilliantly behind the guards back. Riven was blinded and looked away, hitting the ground to avoid being struck by flying debris. After a few moments, she looked over towards the compound and saw a giant gaping hole in the ground. ‘I… I just doomed thousands of citizens,’ Riven thought. ‘I… I…’ She got up to her knees, unable to speak or even think. She looked up to the sky and yelled, heart heavy with the knowledge that she had effectively murdered half the population of Noxus.

Vladimir: Crimson Elite – 7

27 Jun

Vladimir awoke to see Riven and Talon at the table, deeply engrossed in conversation. “Good, you’re awake,” Talon remarked as Vlad walked up to them. “I have a task for each of you and we need to get started as quickly as we can.” Vlad sat down casually and regarded his new leader, “Oh yeah? What’s my job, boss?” Although his tone was slightly sardonic, Talon overlooked his casual demeanor. “Vladimir, I need you to get the armor I left at the safe house back. You will find it in the storage room, and there will be five sets; one for each of us, and one for Cassiopeia and Katarina.” “Seems like a waste of funds there,” laughed Riven. “Never you mind about that, there could be use for those yet,” Talon replied with a bit of steel in his voice. “I know you left Blood Runes everywhere around Noxus, so I’d like you to leave now if you can. I’d advise against trying the one inside our meeting hall. I’m sure it has either been cleaned up, or is closely guarded.” “I know just the place,” Vlad said.  As he walked to the corner of the cave, blood spilled out of his fingertips and began to form runes on the ground.

Vlad flashed Riven a cocky smile followed by a wink, and then in an instant he had disappeared. He enjoyed his time between blood runes. To him it felt as if his entire world was made of blood, and where there was blood, Vlad was in control. When he reformed, Vlad found himself inside a closet at the entrance to a bell tower. This church had been the location of his very first killings, when he had stabbed two boys just to see them bleed. He felt it was a fitting place to begin anew with the Crimson Elite. He stepped outside the church and looked down the streets of Noxus. The air had a metallic taste to it, and the road was lined with wood and brick building, hunched closely together. It almost looked as though the architecture had taken the Noxian mindset to heart, and each building seemingly competed with those around it for space. ‘There’s no place like home,’ Vlad though sarcastically. He stood there for a few moments, taking everything in. Time rushed by him though, and suddenly he heard “Stop right there! Don’t move and we won’t hurt you.”

Vlad looked towards the shouts and saw two Noxian guards running towards him, guns leveled. Vlad threw his arm at the charging men and before anyone could see what had happened, the attackers lay on the ground, gaping holes in their chests. Vlad absorbed the blood he had just taken from his would-be assassins and continued on his way. He knew it was not a smart decision to be walking around the way he was, but his bloodlust was pulsing. Walking in broad daylight, he was silently daring anyone to attempt to collect the bounty on his head. He continued down the streets, unopposed until he reached the blacksmith where the armors were being held.

Vlad became careful now, hiding around a corner and surveying the scene. He waited nearly two hours, unmoving, but saw no one enter or exit the blacksmith. This confirmed his suspicions that his enemies knew this place was important, even if they didn’t know why. The hemomancer had an idea of how to get in, but knew it was risky. He knew that he could create a set of blood runes where he stood and another inside the storage room. It would be tricky to do from this long range, but it would be the best way to quickly get in and out. The main problem Vlad had with the idea is that he had already created one today, and even after absorbing the blood of the two guards, he had no desire to weaken himself any further. After debating with himself for a few minutes, he realized standing there arguing with himself wouldn’t do any good and let the blood flow out of him towards his feet.

“Not often that you get to see something that disgusting at work.” Vlad jerked his head up and looked towards the voice. Cassiopeia, the Serpent’s Embrace, was standing there looking pleased with herself. “I highly doubt that Cassie,” Vlad said lightheartedly. “I’ve heard of your new eating habits, and they don’t sound half as bad as anything I do.” Vlad gave her a mocking grin as he said this and her eyes flashed. “Say what you like, hemomancer. I’ve learned enough about your kind to realize that you wouldn’t be at full strength after making one of these rune circles.” Vlad’s smile faltered slightly and she broke into a terrifying smirk. “That’s what I thought. Now, how about you come over with me and we’ll get this whole business sorted out without any bloodshed.”

At that moment, the Crimson Reaper dissolved in a pool of blood and shot towards the blacksmith. He was desperate to get inside first, for he knew if he managed to grab the armor, he just might get to the runes inside. ‘If they were smart enough to clean it up, I’m done for,’ Vlad thought grimly. Halfway to the blacksmith he reformed and sprinted towards the back. For the first time in his life he wished he had a pair of swordboots to speed him up, much like a certain Ionian champion he had once seen.  He opened the door with a solid kick and burst in. He saw five guards reacting instantly to his presence, knocking over a poker table on their way up. Vlad concentrated hard and flung his blood on the Noxians, momentarily constricting them. He quickly called it back and it flew back into veins, charging him.

A blinding pain ripped down Vlad’s back and he dropped to his knees momentarily, feeling the coat and skin binding together. He quickly turned, a move that seemed to throw fire down his spine and composed himself. He felt the serpentine blood coursing through the woman standing in front of him, preparing to spew more acid. He focused hard, blocking out the agony and pulled a fair amount of blood out from between the scales in her body. She gasped for a moment, feeling a surge of pain and the two stood there looking at each other, neither willing to make a move for fear of exacerbating their injuries. Even though he felt weak, the hemomancer summoned his energy up and blasted blood from both hands. One he shot at Cassiopeia, forcing her to use energy blocking the toxic blood; the other wrapped around the storage box he had come for.

He summoned all the blood he had just thrown out back into himself and then quickly ran down the hall with the armor. He dove into the destroyed meeting room, hearing acid hitting the door frame behind him. He lunged at the runes on the floor trying to melt as soon as his feet touched blood. He glanced over his shoulder and saw acid flying at his face. Unable to react quickly enough, it covered his head. Cassiopeia watched him melt all the way down and wondered whether he’d gotten away. All Vlad heard was silence.

Vladimir: Crimson Elite – 6

26 Jun

“Remind me again why we aren’t just transporting there using your pooling technique?” Riven’s voice was mocking and full of frustration, a sentiment Vlad understood well. “As I’ve told you before, I haven’t placed blood runes there because I didn’t want them being found by someone else. Now quit asking and let us continue.” Tempers had been running high between the two for a number of reasons, not least of which was the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The pair had been moving for two days and had opted against taking the trail for fear of being spotted. Vlad had refused to tell Riven where they were headed, but he knew they were making for the pass in the Ironspike mountains that led to Zaun. From there they would head west a short ways before finding a well hidden cave. The cave was one Talon had transformed into a readymade second base, equipped with everything they’d need.

Although the journey had been arduous off the road, both had agreed it was a better idea than being found on it. They had been openly declared traitors by Noxus and any citizen who caught them would find their status highly elevated. Despite the difficulties this brought, Vlad surmised they would arrive at the pass tomorrow. “Keep your eyes out for a place to rest,” Vlad told the exile. After trekking on for a while longer, they came across an unusual rock formation that left room to sleep underneath. Deciding to make camp for the night, Vlad took the first watch and reflected upon his traveling companion. Though he wasn’t one to make friends or keep any company beyond shallow meetings, Vlad was gaining some affection for the woman. Certainly, it was only the kind of bond that occurs when two people share life or death situations, but the bond was growing nonetheless. He quickly shook it off, knowing that they were really only united under a common goal, and that could change at any moment.

Right then, Riven stirred, looked up and said, “Do you trust Talon?” Vlad was shocked, and chose his words carefully before speaking. “Yes, for now. He needs us, now more than ever since Cassiopeia clearly betrayed him. He will not backstab the only people that can help him achieve his goal so readily. In the future… it’s hard to tell, but suffice it to say I wouldn’t be surprised if we were expendable in his long term plan.” Riven considered his words and replied calmly, “That is the measure I have of the man as well. I suppose we shall see.” From there, the two stayed up trading tales of how they came to their current station in life. Riven spoke of the military, how she had once been the poster child of Noxian recruitment, until she one day found herself being eliminated by their orders. Vlad told her the complete story of his flight from Noxus and subsequent training with the Blood Mage Dmitri. He chose not to tell her the circumstances of his master’s death, rather just that it had happened.

After a while the two simply sat there in a silence, absorbing the events of the past few days as well as the tales they’d heard that night. A few hours later, the sun came up and they continued their journey onwards. Upon reaching the pass, Vlad stopped them and handed Riven climbing gear. She scaled herself up the sheer cliff wall and Vlad oozed his way to the top behind her. He expected her to look disgusted, but the warrior seemed at ease around blood. ‘She has probably shed her fair share of it,’ Vlad thought to himself. After a few more miles travel they reached the cave and ducked inside. Immediately they were set upon by a hooded figured, but Vlad dodged the first knife by sliding his torso into a blood pool and Riven yelled, “Stop! It’s us!”

Talon walked out of the shadows and looked Riven up and down before saying, “Yes, of course. My apologies. Please, come sit down. There is much to discuss.” The cave they were in was surprisingly well furnished, complete with a round table that seated up to five, and five mats in the back that Vlad supposed were for sleeping. As they seated themselves, Talon wasted no time in bringing them up to speed. “Obviously, we have been compromised. Cassiopeia betrayed us, and it was my fault for not seeing it earlier.” There was no shame or regret in his voice upon saying this, he was merely stating a fact. “It is unfortunate, and it sets us back more than I would like because now the Noxian high command knows our plan. This will make it far more difficult, but-“ Riven interjected, “Our plan? You haven’t told me anything about who you are, or what your plan is yet. How do I even know if I want to help you?” Talon smirked, clearly anticipating this question. “Does it really matter anymore? You have nowhere else to turn, and you want to help Noxus as I do.” Riven sat stony faced and signaled with her arms that he should continue. Vlad had watched the whole exchange from his side of the table, taking in everything, but contributing nothing yet.

“Excellent, now that we’re all on the same page, taking down the high command is not going to be easy. We are going to need to penetrate some very high security places and now they’re expecting us.” He was clearly gathering steam, and had been practicing this speech for a while. “As things stand, I believe the only thing we need to do is neutralize General Swain. If we can do that, the seat of power will be wide open, and with you two on my side, any who question my rule will die.” Vlad sat back with a smug smile and said, “You’ve got a lot more going on under the surface than you let on. I’m in.” Riven looked surprised at how quickly he had given in, but after a moment’s pause said, “Ok, I can help you.” Talon’s face broke into the first genuine smile Vlad had ever seen, but the effect chilled him.

“Well, it looks as though we have a job to plan for then. Go ahead and get some rest, I’ll keep the first lookout.” Riven and Vlad went to lie down, weary from their travels. Upon his head hitting the pillow Vlad couldn’t help but think that the smile Talon had displayed during their brief meeting did not bode well for anyone standing in his way.