Hey eerbody. Thanks as usual for all the great feedback and critiques! I hope with everyone's advice and encouragement I'll keep getting better! There is a specific drink in here, the modern day equivalent of which is the appropriately named "Miner's lung"- 3 shots of vodka mixed with Guinness stout *dies a little inside*. Umm...hm this chapter had a lot of stuff that was so hard to describe...please forgive me if it sounds not good . I tried! What else... Oh, when I was writing, I kept getting distracted by reading about different tropes. I could read about tropes all day. Except now I'm really self-conscious about my story, lol.
OH YEAH GAIZ. I had to look at the most terrible things to get this chapter written, like Urgot's splash art, and acid burns. I highly recommend you don't google the latter.
When he absolutely had to attend to duties in the League of Legends, Urgot was inclined to avoid the well-populated areas of the Institute, though even the most populous hallways had the tendency to clear out very quickly when he roamed them. Instead he favored his basement-level room and the dingy basement lounge which was visited only by Champions like himself, such as his former commander Sion and the Cursed Troll; the upper floors did not like being reminded of the existence of ones such as they, abominable and disgusting creatures. The Headsman's Pride found the sickened look that befell their faces at his presence quite humorous.
So it was a great surprise to Urgot when, as he sharpened his blade before his next match in the solitude of his residence, a knock sounded on his door. Without bothering to move from his whetstone, the continuing scrape of metal accompanied his grating, digitized voice as he called, "Enter."
"Hey there, Urgot ol' pal," Draven greeted as he strolled into the dim room.
"What do you want?" Urgot replied curtly.
The Glorious Executioner laughed, a little awkwardly. The machine-man even made Draven feel out of place, and that was a very difficult thing to achieve. "I have a letter for you. From Swain," he informed. A letter he'd already taken the liberty of reading, as evidenced by the unfolded paper he tossed on top of Urgot's blade.
Urgot peered over the letter, keeping it in place with the flat of his blade-hand, but after reading a few sentences, he pushed it out of his face. "I don't have the patience for Swain's rambling. Summarize the letter and leave."
With a grin, Draven started "Katarina DuCouteau is a traitor to Noxus-"
"I have no interest in political games."
Draven's smile stretched even wider. "And she's Garen Crownguard's lover."
At that, Urgot went still.
"Two birds, one stone," the tattooed man insinuated as he turned to leave. "Do your country a favor."
As he rushed from the room, Draven heard a loud crash followed by a bone-chilling roar.
Jarvan IV had been on edge since the debacle with his father a few days ago, too resentful to even try to talk to him. After he explained the situation to Shyvana, she'd turned and walked away without a word; chasing after her only earned him a fierce glare and a demanding "Leave me alone" that held the fiery undertones of her dragon half. She was gone for several days.
But it was her return that finally spurred him to demand an audience with the king. He was on the practice grounds with the soldiers when he became aware of a burning gaze on his back, turning to find the half-dragon woman standing sullenly at the entrance.
"Shyv, I'm sorry," he blurted as he approached her. He could see the muscle in her jaw twitch as she clenched her teeth, as standoffish as ever, considering the presence of so many of her former comrades.
"I would like to talk now," she finally growled. "But not here." There was no pause to see if he followed as she left the grounds, but follow he did.
Hastily, the pair walked outside to the open gardens of the castle, the closest place the could go without fear of being overheard or easily seen.
"I'm sorry," he repeated, looking distraught at the woman beside him. "I don't know how he knew, and I never thought it would turn out like it has."
Anger was Shyvana's natural response, demonstrated through quick responses and sharp words; however, Jarvan knew when she paused as she did now, she was in deep consideration of what to say and how to say it, a rarity to which only he was privy.
"I believe you," she eventually replied. "I have done much thinking the past three days. And I understand my punishment was justified. I am...unfit for you."
The prince stopped and grabbed her by the shoulders. "You are not!" he insisted. She let out a low chuckle.
"I first came here because I owed you a debt, and you earned my respect," she murmured. "I know my service to you and Demacia has been more than enough to repay you, yet I stayed. I scorned humans, yet I craved your acceptance. Everything I knew began to contradict itself."
"Let me finish," she requested. "You have shown me the great good that humanity is capable of, so much so that I, for once, have stopped hating my human half. But now I..." Her typically ferocious expression took on a bitter cast. "I see my dragon's blood as a curse, because I cannot be with you in the way that I wish."
Grasping her face in his hands, Jarvan shook his head and whispered, "I don't see just dragon or just human. I see Shyvana. And I want all of you."
Unintentionally, she smiled, a fleeting, soft thing reserved only for him, but she sobered just as quickly. "Is it even possible?"
Jarvan frowned and vowed, "I will make my father change his mind." A promise, sealed with a kiss.
That was how he found himself finally sitting across from his father, despite his still simmering anger towards the man. "I wish to talk about the punishments levied on myself, Shyvana, Lux, and Garen."
To his surprise, Jarvan Sr. wearily sighed, "What questions do you have?"
"Well...just, don't you think they were generally too harsh?" the prince suggested hotly.
The king shook his head. "Demacia's rules have always been strict. Everyone knows this; it is what makes our nation what she is."
"But Garen has been nothing but faithful since he enlisted!" Jarvan exclaimed. "Lux as well! Why was there no consideration given to-"
"Something you will come to realize when you are king, son, is that partiality causes more problems than it is worth," he interrupted. "When Garen, Lux, and Shyvana enlisted into the military, they swore an oath of servitude and obedience to their King and country. Is their rule-breaking to be met with less expectation than any other soldier's? No! There can be no exceptions!"
The prince clenched his fist and forced himself to take a deep breath before responding, "That may be, but exile? Isn't that excessive?"
With a heavy sigh, the king replied, "If it had been anyone except the DuCouteau woman, I might have lessened it. It is too risky, having him tied to her, a part of the High Command, while tied to Demacia. Suppose she decided to betray him for the chance to kill one of us, or Noxus used the relationship as reason for war. Maybe he could have been swayed to betray Demacia further than he already did. Severing his ties was the most efficient way to distance the city from a potentially disastrous situation. Do you see that there were too many dangerous variables to consider?"
Jarvan frowned, feeling guilty that he could see the reasoning behind his father's actions, even if he didn't agree.
"Luxanna is a valuable asset to Demacia," Jarvan III continued. "It was clear she was fallen somewhat from the appropriate mindset in her failure to report her brother's wayward actions, but going through new recruit training should adjust her properly. We need her brilliance on our side."
Everything his father was saying sounded familiar yet somehow foreign. Jarvan IV knew the rules, knew as his father explained his reasoning that it was directly in line with Demacia's ethical code. But why then did it sound so wrong?
"For her light infraction, a mild sentence for Shyvana. She will be reinstated into the League as a Demacian Champion eventually, and will be free to enlist in the military once more." The king narrowed his eyes at his son and added, "She is not the right woman for you, Jarvan."
Even still his words stung the prince. "You never even gave her a chance!" he shouted. "She's smart and a fierce warrior, someone I would be proud to show at my side!"
"The future queen of Demacia needs to be able to manage herself in the political realm alongside you!" the king argued. "Undeniably she is an admirable fighter! But what happens when she is trying to help you negotiate peace and she loses her temper?"
"She's better than that! You don't know her! You don't know of the good things she is capable of doing!"
Again Jarvan Sr. shook his head slowly. "As the crown prince of Demacia, I have told you before that the needs of the nation come before your personal desires. And we need people who can benefit Demacia."
That was when it clicked for Jarvan IV. Why everything sounded simultaneously familiar and amiss.
"Demacia is no different from Noxus," he stated with sudden clarity. "Those with no perceived use are cast aside, while the zealously devoted rise through the ranks."
"What are you talking about, son?" the elder asked, brow raised in confusion.
"We hide behind the banners of justice and morality when we'd just as easily betray our own for any show of weakness," the prince commented, almost more to himself than his father. "How have we all been so blind to that...?"
King Jarvan III stood, his face steeled into a cold expression. "Get out, and be glad I don't make your charge worse."
The prince rose as well, but paused before he left the room. "I will change things," he swore. "I will make you see reason."
The blonde mage closed her eyes and braced herself for the storm that was sure to follow her mother's shriek.
She was pleasantly shocked when she felt Lilia's arms encircle her in a tight embrace instead.
"I got held up in Freljord but I came as quickly as I could," Lilia cried. "Are you ok?"
"Mother?" Tentatively, Lux raised her hands to return the hug. Around each of her wrists was a thick silver cuff which let off a faint blue glow and served to suppress her magic entirely. "I'm... I'm fine, mom, I'm ok," she whispered, clinging to Lilia's thin frame. "Aren't you mad?"
Lilia pulled away from her daughter and directed a hard slap to Lux's face. "I'm furious!" she screamed before bursting into tears and seizing Lux in another hug.
Her face stung and her cheek was red, but the tears in her eyes weren't from the slap; Lux couldn't remember the last time Lilia hugged her. She let out a soft sob and buried her face in her mother's shoulder. "I'm sorry, mother! I'm so sorry!"
The two Crownguard women stood holding each other in the hall until their tears had slowed, and Lilia finally pushed her daughter away from her, asking, "Do you know where Garen is?"
Lux gave a small shake of her head. "He probably went to the League. Where...where else would he go? He has nothing! If it weren't for Capt-... Commander Anders, he wouldn't even have decent clothes to wear."
Lilia covered her mouth, distressed. "How did this happen? I don't believe treason, not for a minute! Not from Garen! I raised you two better than that!"
Luxanna shifted her gaze to her feet and remained quiet.
"Luxanna," her mother said in a warning tone. "What. Happened."
With a heavy sigh, the mage slumped in defeat. "I guess you'll hear about it eventually. Might as well make sure you hear the truth." She motioned for her mother to follow her into the study. "You'll want to sit down for this story."
Five days in Kalamanda was enough to make Garen reconsider his decision to avoid the League. After the removal of military presence, and the construction of the Crystal Scar, refugees of the war trickled back to the town, slowly at first, then in droves, to reconstruct their homes, and it wasn't long until it began to grow with the small influx of money that came from the League.
He wasn't completely without activity: The locals were excited to have someone as big as he to help with repairs to Crystal Scar field after matches, but it wasn't much, and they were reluctant to give him full-time work at the quarry or refinery. Even though he was able to remain relatively untroubled in Kalamanda, he found he had too much time on his hands; was it really better than potentially being derided by his former teammates, but having a purpose?
It was difficult to admit, even to himself, that it was more than just fear of being scorned that kept him from the League. Truthfully, he was simply too proud to admit that he'd failed, or that he needed help, or to look Katarina in the eye and say he had nothing to offer. His identity was centered around his work with the military; he wasn't certain who he even was without it.
But Kalamanda gave him his space and took care of him enough that he managed to survive the tumult of the first few days of his exile. Although there were many places he could have stayed, in an effort to conserve what little money he had, Garen made a camp in the forest he had come to know so well that consisted of only a fire next to a tree, that was so twisted in on itself it made a decent sleeping platform. He was grateful he had learned survival skills in the military, but without even a simple knife, hunting and trapping were out of the question; he took payment for the work he did primarily in the form of food.
Evening was approaching and the quiet town was beginning to shut down activity for the day, leaving Garen no choice but to go back to his camp and ruminate on his thoughts for the rest of the night. As he headed toward the treeline, the Demacian stopped in his tracks, his mind changed. He quickly pulled the money from his vest pocket and counted it out, deciding that he could spare enough for one drink. Alcohol wasn't his usual method of coping, but he supposed he was still young enough to pick up a good vice.
Now that Kalamanda was devoid of soldiers, the Hasty Hammer bar had reverted to being a local meeting place after work hours. The clinking of dishes and buzz of different conversations greeted him as he walked in, and Garen hesitantly nodded to a few people as he maneuvered through the tables to the bar where he set down his carefully counted money.
"What're you having?" the bartender, a short and heavy set man with an impressively long beard, asked, leaning on the counter.
"The strongest thing this will get me," the soldier mumbled, pushing his cash across the bar to the man, who gave him a sympathetic look before counting it out and grabbing an extra large mug. Garen watched with interest as the bartender poured in several shots of a clear liquor and topped it with the darkest beer he'd ever seen, far more than he paid for.
"You look like you could use a little extra," the bearded man explained, sliding the tall glass into Garen's welcoming hands before he turned to take the order of another patron who sat down a few seats away.
Garen took a deep drink and promptly let out a choked cough at the unexpectedly sludge-like quality of the liquid.
"So what's your problem that you need a drink like that?" a male voice questioned. Garen looked to the source to see the man who'd just sat down a few seats to his right. He was dressed entirely in black, his hood drawn so low over his face that Garen could only see his mouth curved up in a familiar smirk over his closely trimmed salt-and-pepper beard. A simple dagger was strapped to his side, the only visible weaponry on the man, but Garen had the distinct feeling there was more beneath the cloak.
"Just..." he paused, trying to think of one word to summarize the entirety of his problems. "Politics," he muttered, hoping the stranger would leave him alone. He was not so lucky; the man slid his drink down the bar toward the Demacian before joining it.
"Not a woman?!" the man laughed. "Now that's rare."
Garen couldn't help but smile a little. "There's a woman, but she's definitely not the problem."
"Well, if that's not a reason to be happy, then I don't know what is."
They were both quiet for a few minutes as they drank, until Garen blurted, "I can't be with her though," surprising himself.
The man rubbed a gloved hand over his chin and asked curiously, "And why is that?"
"...It's complicated." Damn, he never intended to actually talk to this guy. "There's a lot of stuff in the way right now."
"Take it from me kid," the stranger grinned, "if you really want to be with her, get over your little pity party and man up. She doesn't need some indecisive ******* to worry about." The door to the bar swung open and the man glanced over, then promptly downed his drink. As he slid off his bar stool, he added, "Nice meeting you."
Garen sat in a disbelieving silence while the man all but vanished from the bar, then turned back to his drink with a scowl. What the hell did he know anyway?! He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and he looked up in time to see a flash of purple before he caught a punch square in the jaw that made him crash against the floor.
"Take it outside before we make you," the bartender warned, his voice ringing loud and threatening through the hush that settled over the tavern.
"Don't worry," Talon assured, his face a mask of cold indifference that met the Demacian's glare as he bolted to his feet. "We're going."
With a shove the assassin pushed Garen forward and out the door, mumbling when they were clear of prying eyes, "Pathetic drunk *******."
It was just the motivation for which Garen was looking. With a growl, he tackled the man around the waist and sent him face first to the dirt, and Talon quickly pushed up against him, getting enough space to connect an elbow with the Demacian's nose. It wasn't strong, but it was enough for Garen to loosen his grip on the assassin, which he used to his advantage.
In the same motion, Talon twisted against the soldier's grip and shoved a shoulder into his chest, catching him still off balance from the previous strike. Finally facing his attacker, Talon ceased any action Garen was contemplating when he placed the cold steel of his wrist blade against his neck. The unarmed Demacian allowed the assassin to shove him onto his back, simply glaring back with eyes full of hostility as Talon pressed a knee into his sternum.
"I only just decided not to kill you," the Noxian hissed. "Don't make me change my mind."
"Do it! No one's stopping you!" Garen gasped.
Red eyes flashed and his blade drew blood, but not enough to be lethal. Garen coughed as the pressure unexpectedly let up on his chest.
"I can't believe I'm ****ing doing this," Talon muttered to himself, extending a hand to the wary soldier. "I'm not giving you any second chances. Get up."
Suspicion clearly etched on his face, Garen took the assassin's hand and staggered to his feet. The combination of alcohol and oxygen deprivation had his vision swimming, but he didn't have time to compose himself before Talon demanded, "Where are you staying? We need to talk."
"Now you want to talk?" the Demacian rasped.
"You want to start this again?" the Noxian countered, raising his blade. "Because I will kill you."
Garen glared, but motioned for Talon to follow him further outside the city into the woods. When they finally reached his simple camp, the assassin barked, "Sit down." The Demacian hesitated until the hooded man subtly flexed his armed wrist.
"I know about you and Katarina," he explained, pacing the area in front of Garen, who wisely kept his mouth shut. "And it makes sense that we're in this mess now. If it weren't for you none of this would have happened!"
"What mess are you in?" Garen frowned, ignoring the flush creeping up his neck. "And how is it my fault?!"
Talon stopped pacing. "You know, Swain wants us dead. We're trapped at the League. Oh, and our house got burned down," he sneered sarcastically. "None of this would have happened if Katarina didn't actually...care about you!"
"Wait a second!" Garen cried. "What are you talking about?! You still would've gotten on Swain's bad side doing all that investigation into LeBlanc and the Black Rose! That is not my fault!"
Whirling on the Demacian, Talon shouted, "I knew she should've killed you after we got the information on the League! That would have solved everything! But she didn't want to! See why it's your fault now?!"
Talon told Katarina to kill him? Garen was stunned, though why he would have expected any less from a pair of assassin's, he didn't know. He felt pleasantly warm that she'd refused. "Then do it now," he challenged quietly. "If it will still make everything better for her, then do it!"
The assassin clenched his fists, and let the conversation lapse momentarily. "I realized it wouldn't change anything now," he admitted. "Cass was right; Swain would do anything to have a reason to kill us. And Katarina... I won't hurt her like that."
Talon's confession was unsettling; never would Garen have expected such a revealing statement from the hardened assassin. "... I'm sorry. I never thought... any of this would happen," he murmured.
The hooded man clicked his tongue in frustration. "I'm still pissed at you. The least you could do to make up to her would be to come back to the League," the Noxian asserted. "If we leave the Institute, Draven is going to hunt us down, her especially. And... gods it kills me to say this, but a little extra help would be useful."
"Why don't we just kill him?" Garen suggested. "Wouldn't that be the easiest thing to do?"
"I would love to, but I don't know what kind of repercussions killing a Champion will have from the League, even if it's outside their walls. Or what Swain will do, for that matter. We need to play it safe." He scoffed, "Besides, you don't think we thought of that?"
"Fair enough," the Demacian shrugged. First the man at the bar, now Talon; Garen could take a hint. "Does she know you're here?" he queried as he stood.
Talon hesitated, then replied, "No, she doesn't. We got into it about your... Are you two actually together?"
His expression showed annoyance, but the blood was rising to his cheeks. "I... I don't know!" he stammered. "L-look, let's just go."
"Hey!" Talon grabbed the other man's arm, his face threatening. "She part of the only family I've ever had..." With an indignant scoff his only response, Garen shrugged off his hand and marched off in the direction of the League, Talon following close behind.
It literally made the assassin's stomach church to ask for help, especially since his whole life had been centered around doing things for himself. But if Katarina really wanted him...
"I'm sorry if I made things difficult. For you and Cassiopeia too, not just Katarina," the Demacian muttered.
Talon groaned. "Oh for ****'s sake! Are you always so damn nice?"
Katarina sheathed her daggers, pulling one from the wall and plucking the other from the floor with a heavy sigh. Even though her immature display a few hours prior still lingered distastefully in her memory, she felt like she was back in control now, cool and collected. A pang in her chest accompanied Talon's words sounding in her head: Selfish, selfish, selfish. This was not the time to be selfish, and her family could not afford for her to be so. Garen could reach out for her, but she wasn't about to go chasing him down.
The assassin stomped over to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on her puffy eyes, allowing herself a derisive laugh as she considered what might have happened if Talon hadn't confronted her. She needed to be aware of Draven's whereabouts at all times; he might not be able to get the jump on her, but Cass was a good deal more vulnerable, and she didn't trust him not to do something underhanded, even in the Institute.
Before she could finish drying off her face, there was a series of loud thuds on her door, and she forced herself to take a few deep breaths to keep her anger from rising again. "If you think you can just apologize and I'll forget about what you said, you got another thing coming!" she declared, crossing the room to swing open the door.
Katarina narrowly jumped back as a jagged blade stabbed at the space she occupied a split second earlier. As she drew her blades, Urgot pushed the door frame and shot a missile at her feet, causing her to stumble as sparks burned through the soft soles of her boots, but momentum carried her forward and she sliced into the monstrous Champion.
Urgot's body had seen much harsher damage though, and Katarina had a moment to wonder why he didn't try to block, when she noticed the machine on his back start to glow.
It was only a second, but a second was all the executioner needed. The assassin lost control of her body, freezing in place as she suddenly blinked to the place Urgot had been standing. Katarina didn't think twice about bolting for the door, but found that she could barely move, her limbs straining and pushing her nowhere. He fired another missile that hit the red-head in the back of the leg, this one exploding in a splash of acid that melted through the fabric of her pants and ate through the skin and muscle of her calves, causing her to fall to her knees with a whimper of pain.
The exchange had lasted less than ten seconds, and Urgot calmly moved to shut the door. Katarina rolled away from the area of floor which still bubbled with acid, and with a cry surged to her feet. Her hands were shaking as she hurled all the knives she possessed in furious burst of steel at the Champion's chest, which sliced through the sickening patchwork of his skin and made him stagger back. With the damage to her legs, the assassin tried to lunge into another attack and promptly dropped to her knees again.
"You're not going to get away with this," she groaned.
The monster shot another corrosive charge, which clipped her thigh and exploded as she tried to dodge. "I do not wish to," he replied evenly, scuttling to her position, unaffected by the acid that was eroding the floor, and unphased by the thick blood that oozed down his torso. "And I do not care if you live or die, so long as Garen Crownguard suffers."
The steel of his blade was so sharp she didn't even feel it until it was sliding out of her lower abdomen. With a soft cry, she fell to her side, clutching at the wound while Urgot quickly made his exit, the soft click of the door echoing in her ears with a sort of grim finality.
No one was coming to save her.
Her finger's curled into a fist.
One arm pressed against the bleeding wound, she willed her damaged legs to push against the floor and clawed her way to the bedside, small whimpers tumbling from her lips as she moved. Katarina pulled on the bed sheet until there was enough slack to wrap around her stomach and she tied it as tightly as her trembling fingers could manage. With dread heavy in her chest, her gaze drifted down to her legs.
They'd only felt a little hot, with a slight sting, until she'd looked at them. And then the pain became unbearable. Her mouth opened in a silent cry and then she slumped onto the floor and into oblivion.