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Vladimir: Crimson Elite – 15

3 Jul

Vlad felt uneasy as he reappeared in the castle. ‘Riven should not be out there alone!’ he thought. He looked towards Talon and said, “Who’s next?” The leader looked uncomfortable for a moment before saying, “Surely you get it by now Vlad. We need someone to blame for this ordeal. It’s all well and good that we succeeded, but surely the populace won’t accept this unless we have an enemy to present to them.” Vlad’s face remained blank, but inside he was seething. Talon continued on, nonplussed, “In this case, Riven is believable, and already there. Thanks to Katarina and Cassiopeia, everyone already believes that this whole sequence of events was accomplished thanks to Riven. This is the best possible thing for Noxus.” Vlad considered his words carefully before saying, “You’re no different. I thought I was fighting for a Noxus where things could be different, and instead you give me the same thing. You’re sacrificing loyal people to further your personal agenda. I’m leaving.” He turned away from his leader and began to walk back down the hallway towards the runes.

“Where will you go Vladimir? You know I can just as easily turn you in like I did Riven. Stay with us while you still have a chance.” Talon spoke these words beseechingly, and Vladimir was impressed with the depth of emotion he was capable of fabricating. “Talon, congratulations on your rule of Noxus. I warn you, if we meet again, it will not be as friends.” He turned and saw Katarina lifting a knife to throw at him, but he was already melting into the runes beneath him. The last thing he saw was Talon’s face, staring at him with an intensity that frightened Vlad. ‘Yes, Noxus has found a true ruler,’ he conceded. Upon appearing back inside the attic, he heard a shriek reverberate across the ground. He knew that would be Cassiopeia starting the attack and he hurried to the town square. He could hear war cries and death gasps in equal measure as he ran down the streets. He was pleased Riven wasn’t going without a fight.

As he rounded the corner and came within view of the square, he saw a peculiar sight. The fighting had stopped, and Riven was on one knee, balancing herself on a completed blade. He realized she had somehow managed to reforge her rune blade and was impressed; that was not an easy skill. Cassiopeia had writhed up in front of her and he saw Riven stagger to her feet. He began running towards her, wishing to help when he got close enough to hear “-you are beyond redemption.” With that he watching in awe as Riven lunged forward and managed to slice Cassiopeia’s body in half, just between the stomach and the chest. Her body slump to the side and Riven landed on her feet briefly. As she was falling down, Valdimir was crestfallen and hoped he was not too late. The soldiers, stunned at the death of their commander, stood there for a moment before a lieutenant shouted them forward at her. Vlad shouted, “Pitiful creatures. Leave now before you find your precious city in ruins!” A few hesitated, but did not run, so Vlad launched bloody projectiles at them, killing three men instantaneously. During this confusion as the Noxians backed away frightened, Vlad picked up Riven’s body, quickly created a set of blood runes on the ground and disappeared into the blood.

He had teleported them back to his temple home and he could only think of one thing to try. He could still feel her blood pulsing, but barely. The wounds at this point seemed both spiritual and physical, making this very difficult to heal. He rushed her down to the pools beneath his home and attempted a last gasp effort. He had never thought of this before, never having given a care to anyone but himself. He was going to try the same healing technique he used with blood for Riven. He placed her in the pool and concentrated on the blood. He could feel it pouring into her, revitalizing her injuries and wounds. He could feel her physically becoming healthier and knew it was working. After a few minutes in the blood he pulled her out and lay her down on the steps. She was breathing, although she had not yet awoken. He knew they could not stay here; Talon would be looking for them as quickly as he could. Unfortunately, he had no blood runes outside of Noxus, and had to carry her with him on foot.

He quickly set out, not wishing to be caught, and walked the rest of the night and all of the next day before collapsing in the woods. Now that he finally had time to sit and reflect, he gazed over at his companion. They were an unlikely pair, and it was the first taste of friendship Vladimir had ever really enjoyed. As a boy his fascination with blood made him an outcast, and Dmitri had always been more of father figure than a friend. This realization only served to make the hemomancer more determined to save her life. Unfortunately, he only knew of one living creature who could heal such deep scars.

At daybreak, Vladimir gathered up his courage and set off east towards the sea. He was headed to Ionia to get Riven the help she required. He would not rest until he found the healer. As he trudged on, weary, hungry and wanting to give up one word kept going through his head, pushing him on. ‘Starchild.’

Epilogue

Talon sat on his throne, considering how quickly the last month had flown by. He had made a mistake by letting Vladimir go, but since then he had acted flawlessly. With the entire country looking for the two fugitives, there was no chance of his involvement being leaked, which suited him well. Although Cassiopeia had died, there was talk that a combination of necromancy and techmaturgy may be able to save her, similar to Urgot. A grateful Katarina was the most dedicated second in command he could ever have asked for. He had pulled the Noxian troops out of Ionia, deciding instead to focus on training and preparation. This made the world think that they were safe, that the new leader was going to be a different breed from the previous administration.

Unfortunately for them, he had other plans. The Blade’s Shadow smiled, thinking to himself ‘Shortly, our plans for global domination will be set in motion. By the time they come into play, it will be too late to stop us. All will be united under the Noxian banner.’ With that, he stood up and began to walk towards the war room. He didn’t want to keep his new subjects waiting.

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Riven: Crimson Elite – 14

2 Jul

As they reached the ninth floor hallway she spotted them. The infamous Blood Brothers, Darius and Draven stood in their way. Darius was a hulking beast, wearing his same armor from the last time they fought. Draven was not quite as armored, but his two lethal spinning axes were whirling in his hand. Riven had heard plenty of stories about how talented he was with them, and was not keen to find out. Talon looked over towards her and she nodded. She realized this was why she had come along. She was to delay two of Noxus’ finest warriors to allow Talon to get through to the General. With that, she did not waste any more time before pulling out her broken sword and flying forward at her enemies.

She dashed forward and to the left, feinting towards Draven first. The pair seemed to expect this and Darius immediately moved to get in front of his brother. Right then, Riven saw Talon burst by, and fled to the opposite side of the hallway. Riven started her triple slash but after the second swing was blocked by Darius, she concentrated a ki burst, stunning him. As she dove past the dazed warrior, Draven lined up an axe and sent it sailing towards her head. Riven deflected it away and charged at the Glorious Executioner. He turned and fled down the hall, retrieving his downed axe on the way. By then, Riven knew Darius would be back up and turned just in time to dive out of the way as he was rushing at her, blade held high. He swung downwards, looking to cleave her skull, but she was too quick. She dove back underneath him while he was still off balance and kicked up into his stomach, doubling him over.

Just then she felt a searing pain in a line down her back. The inch long spikes on the end of Draven’s throwing axes had penetrated her armor fully and she roared in pain. She brought the hilt of her sword down with a crack on Darius’ head. He slumped over and she turned to face Draven, hoping to fend off his attack. Just as she turned, she saw four blades appear, one in both arms and both legs, quicker than her eyes could follow. He collapsed and hobbled back into the room on the side of the hall. Riven turned and saw Katarina sprinting up the hall towards her. “He’s upstairs,” Riven said and Katarina quickly ran after Talon. Riven sat there, clenched her teeth and grimaced through the pain as she pried the axe from her flesh. Blood began to pour out of her wounds and she looked around for something to staunch the bleeding. She found a tapestry hanging and tore off several strips, plugging the inch deep holes down her back. As soon as the searing pain died down, she went over to the door and jammed Darius up against it. She knew it wouldn’t hold Draven forever, but it gave them time to hear him coming out if he wanted to cause trouble.

Aching with pain, she slumped down against the wall and sat there, catching her breath. They had done it. She knew Talon would not have a problem dealing with a man like Darkwill, and that meant the deed was done. Soon after Vladimir came rushing up the stairs and upon seeing Riven gasped. He ran over to her and moved the makeshift gauze away. “Let me try something,” he said and then put his hands to her back. It felt weird, but when she looked down, her wounds were closed and she felt slightly better. “You still lost a lot of blood, but that’ll at least prevent you from losing any more. How’d it go up here?” “It was just swell, as you can see,” Riven said, “Talon is upstairs with Katarina and they should be done by now. Let’s go see.” At that moment Katarina and Talon came rushing down the stairs. They looked far more panicked than someone who had just won over the allegiance of a nation. “What’s wrong?” Riven asked quickly. It was Katarina who spoke. “The guard and my sister refuse to take our side on the situation. There’s a revolt in the town square led by them. We need to take care of it immediately.”

Riven shared their concern and wondered what course of action they should take. This was not entirely unexpected, although they had all assumed Cassiopeia would follow Katarina anywhere. “Vlad, we’ll need you to make blood runes here and transport Riven to your runes closest to the square. Come back as quick as you can, and then you’ll be able to take us.” Talon spoke with all the authority he had, and Riven had to admit, he was a strong leader. “Sounds good, but Riven’s-“ Vlad started to point to Riven’s wounds but she cut him off. “No, this is a good plan. Let’s go.” The hemomancer looked like he wanted to protest further but after a withering look from Riven he began creating the blood runes. Once they were set on the floor, he grabbed Riven’s arm and they disappeared. Riven noticed that each time she traveled like this, the less she minded, and barely even felt any odd sensations as she reappeared inside of an attic. “We’re right outside the square, just head north one block and you’ll find it.” Vlad paused, hesitating and then said, “Riven… be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.” She smiled and said, “Just go get my backup and you won’t have to worry about that.” She was trying to sound more confident than she was. She had lost too much blood and needed the others to get there as soon as possible. Vlad disappeared and she stepped down into the house and out in the street.

When she got to the square she yelled, “What is going on here?” The soldiers all looked over to her as one and stood up straight, in full military posture.  “There she is. There’s the one who has been causing all this trouble.” The hissing voice was quiet, but carried quite well over the complete silence in the square. Cassiopeia slithered up atop the steps in the center of the town square and said, “Men, this woman who stands before you is the reason your families are going hungry. This woman is the reason that your leader lies dead in his castle. This woman is everything that is wrong with Noxus right now. If we eliminate her, it is the first step on our path to global domination.” Riven was confused, ‘How could Cassiopeia possibly know any of this without being informed by Katarina?’ That was when it hit her. She was being set up. The people were not going to take all of the changes going around without someone to blame, and Talon had set her up perfectly. She was the perfect scapegoat for everything. She had destroyed the food storage facility and left plenty of witnesses. She had just assaulted the castle and made herself far more visible than Talon had; plus, she a former soldier who had almost been killed by her own people. She made the most sense as someone with a big enough grudge against Noxus to perpetrate all of these actions.

‘This is why Talon wanted me so badly. This is why I’ve been getting the jobs I have. And now, my public execution at the hands of the army means that no one is dissatisfied.’ Riven despaired, but did not let it show on her face. She merely pulled out her broken rune sword and stood there, ready to challenge any who came. No one moved for several moments, and then she stood up straight. “Come then, if you wish to challenge me, come see what my blade can do. You’re all being lied to by your new administration. You will be used, like I was. However, no matter what you do to me, with your weapons, your lies, and your corruption… no matter what tool you use, my spirit is not lost. I am Commander Riven, Exile of Noxus. Come at me if you dare!” She bellowed these words, which echoed around the silent streets of Noxus. The army looked frightened, but then Cassiopeia shrieked, “KILL HER!” The army charged with a loud cry and Riven dropped into a deep state of concentration. She used all of her anger, all of her hatred at the injustices committed against her and focused on her blade. When she opened her eyes, her rune blade was forged again and she smiled, knowing that when she died here today, she would take many souls with her.

The closest soldier flew at her and she dodged to the side, swinging her full sword through him, slicing him at the waist. Before she could look over another two were at her coming in high. She stabbed one and the other’s blade bounced off her new armor. She quickly stabbed again at the opening created and yet another soldier fell. She moved this way and that, dodging and diving with an elegant beauty. Her movements were fluid and every time she received a hit, her armor kept her from taking the full force of an attack. She slashed, she swung her brilliantly glowing rune sword, and every time she picked a target, it found its mark. The pile of bodies around her began to grow and the soldiers were starting to hesitate to come after her. She kept moving, slowly wearing down inside from the enormous amount of concentration keeping her sword took. Combined with the lack of blood, and sheer exhaustion from the weeks she had spent in motion she knew she did not have much time left. None of the Noxians saw this, all they could see was a goddess moving around the battlefield, slaying all who came before her.

Eventually, a shriek came out, “Enough! Move aside, all of you.” Cassiopeia came slithering through the ranks and faced Riven. “If these cretins cannot properly deal with you, I will.” Riven, weary to the bone, knew she did not have enough energy left for a full fight. She dropped to one knee, balancing herself on her sword and looked down. As she sat there, her only thought was, ‘This is it. I’m going to die.’ Just saying it to herself in her head steeled her, got her ready for it. She decided upon one last triumphant act before she bowed out. She staggered to her feet, taking off her black armor. Thought it had served her well during this last stand, she didn’t want to die in the symbol of the Crimson Elite. Still holding tightly onto her rune blade, she stood up, using the blade for balance. It was taking all of her effort just to keep it together for the next ten seconds, but she would not fail. The medusa hissed, “Come Riven. You are done. I will take you into captivity and you will have a fair trial.” Cassiopeia’s smile was frightening and Riven knew what the outcome would be. “It is not me who should be tried, but you and your band of wicked warriors. Cassiopeia, you,” she emphasized her next words carefully, “you are beyond redemption.”

With that, the exile jumped forward and swung her blade through the torso of the serpentine woman, watching her body slump down to the side. Completely spent, Riven dropped to her knees and fell further, onto her back. Staring up into the sky, as her vision faded at the edges, she saw the stars and couldn’t help but think ‘If this is dying, it’s really not so bad.’ With that, the Exile’s eyes closed and the world around her went black.

Talon: Crimson Elite – 13

1 Jul

Riven and Vladimir came walking in together, about an hour before they were scheduled to begin the operation. Normally this strange alliance would worry Talon, but he knew there was nothing to fear from Riven after her reaction to the food storage plant. Vladimir was more difficult to read. That mischievous grin was better than any poker face he could recall, but it appeared that the Crimson Reaper was happy here. His transformation had been startling, certainly, but it would only make him an even more powerful force for the Crimson Elite.  Talon welcomed them back, “Well, I believe it is time for everyone to don their armor yet again.” Riven and Talon took a few minutes to get ready. Vladimir had not taken his armor off yet and was leaning against the side of the cave wall with his eyes closed. He looked serene, and Talon assumed he was preparing for the coming night.

At sundown, Vladimir and Katarina disappeared, transporting to a small home located only minutes away from the Noxian headquarters. This house had belonged to a pair of degenerate gamblers Talon had killed years ago. He had continued to keep the house furnished for just such an occasion. While he was no stranger to blood, Talon disliked blood travel because he despised not being in control. It seemed as though he could slip away at any moment, becoming lost in the oblivion of blood, and this frightened him. He would never admit it, but one of the reasons he admired Vlad so much is that he did not have the constitution required to be a hemomancer.

Shortly after leaving Vladimir came back and took Riven. Talon was completely calm about the mission; he knew what it would take to succeed. Although this was certainly a higher degree of difficulty than anything he had faced before, he was confident in his skills and his lieutenants. The Exile had the most important job of the night, and he knew she would perform it admirably. She was not one for words or protesting, she was a woman of action. Talon had specifically recruited her for this night, for this purpose. He smiled as he thought about his master scheme coming into play. ‘Soon,’ he thought, ‘I will be ruler of Noxus. All in our land will bow to me, and then, all of Runeterra will be mine.’ His musings were soon interrupted by Vlad phasing back into the cave. “Are you ready, boss?” The mocking intonation was there, as always, but he was too useful for Talon to protest. “Take us away, Reaper.”

As he appeared in the house, he saw Riven standing off the side and let go of Vladimir’s arms. He smiled confidently to himself and said, “Let’s go.” They moved silently throughout the streets, their new armor built to move silently despite overlapping metal plates. The roads of Noxus were empty. Katarina’s guard had surely gone by, and no intelligent Noxian citizen wanted to be caught outside when a fully armored squad was out and looking for trouble. As they approached the headquarters Talon marveled at the building. The tall, black stone castle towered above its surroundings. ‘Soon,’ thought Talon. When the trio was a block away, Talon stopped them and they ducked into a small side alley. He signaled for them to wait and blended into the shadows. His new armor worked even better than his old cloak, and he couldn’t help but be pleased. When he was in charge, this blacksmith would be elevated to a noble’s status. He saw the two guards outside the entrance and decided to attack from above. He leapt onto the wall above them and quietly made his way behind them. He took out his tethered blades and struck downwards. The guards hit the ground, dead before they had moved a muscle.

He signaled over his shoulder to Riven and Vladimir who came running in. At that moment, a small group of guards came running out the large wooden doors in the front of the castle. Talon marveled at their awareness, more impressed with his country than ever before. Upon spotting them, the guards yelled “Intruders! Quickly, sound the alarms!” Before anything else could be said Riven dove forward and beheaded the man with one quick stroke. Vlad quickly dispatched the other two and Talon said, “Try not to kill more than you have to. These are men of Noxus and will be our guards shortly.” The two exchanged a look and then both nodded at him. While this closeness made him uncomfortable, now was not the time or place to deal with it.

The Crimson Elite pressed on, but stopped once they came to the main hall. Even though Katarina had managed to take around half of the guards with her to the town square, there were anywhere between fifty to seventy-five men in the room. Talon looked at Vladimir and said, “Crowds are your thing. Make it happen. Meet us upstairs as soon as you can.” Riven began to cut a bloody path through the middle with Talon following closely behind, slicing at anyone who got too close. The guards attempted to follow, but when the hemomancer reached the staircase he stopped. Vlad began to laugh deeply, the resonating booms capturing the attention of the room. This gave his two partners ample time to enter the staircase and proceed up. In the background, Talon could hear, “Which vessel shall I empty next?”

They proceeded up the next two floors with only a few guards here and there, but Riven dispatched all who dared to come near. By the time they were on the 4th floor, Talon was excited at how well his plan was working. “Let me take lead,” Talon said, and Riven left her sword trailing behind her, following Talon closely. As the two neared the ninth floor, the stairs cut off, forcing them to take a long hallway. Standing in their way, perfectly still, were two figures whose appearances could not have contrasted more. Darius, the Hand of Noxus stood on the right while his younger brother Draven was swinging back and forth on the left. Talon looked to Riven, who nodded and then charged at the pair, yelling as she swung her sword. Talon heard a clang as the two blades locked together. Without a second thought, Talon dove past the two brothers and up the stairs, leaving Riven to deal with their one-two punch.

‘Finally, I am at my goal,’ Talon thought. ‘Finally, this land world will know what true power is!’ He sprinted towards the ornate doors that made Boram Darkwill’s sleeping chambers and kicked them in with one blow. Darkwill, already dressed in his finest military attire, sat upon his throne and laughed. “So, it is you Talon. I should have expected as much. Katarina would not betray her father’s ward.” Talon merely smiled behind his helmet and said, “You’ll never know will you? You surely know you aren’t living through this night by now?” Darkwill responded hotly, “I wouldn’t be so sure of that, impudent pig!” At that moment Talon heard a collapse behind him and quickly glanced over his shoulder. There was a guard lying on the floor with a dagger squarely in the middle of his back, Katarina walking over towards him. Talon turned back to Darkwill, venom in his eyes and said, “If that is your best option, you deserve to die here tonight.” The Grand General of Noxus laughed maniacally and stated calmly, “You would murder a defenseless old man? Why don’t we settle this like men and duel?” Talon’s face was hidden by his faceplate, so there was a long moment of silence while Darkwill watched and waited before he said, “You’re on. You have thirty seconds to prepare.”

Darkwill immediately reached over the side of his throne to pick up and axe, but before he could complete the motion, Talon flung a Blade into his skull. He dropped to floor, dead on impact. Katarina looked shocked, but impressed. It took cold blood to be able to kill a man like that, and the Blade’s Shadow had just proved he had ice in his veins. Talon walked over to Darkwill’s corpse and tapped it with his foot. Satisfied that the ruler of Noxus was dead, he took off his helmet. Gazing down at the old man lying there, lifeless he couldn’t help but think that this fate was destined to be his someday as well. It was the price of ruling Noxus, and he would only be able to stop it by uniting the land under his forceful and effective rule. He looked over to Katarina and said, “May the Dynasty of the Crimson Elite long rule the land.”

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.”