Greetings everyone. So, I don't write fan fiction in general, nor read much at all. I like to work on my own stuff, but I had an idea for a story centered around Mordekaiser so I figured I'd go with it! I did not, however, want to use a Champion as the main character, and I did not want to set the story in the League, or on the Fields of Justice. I wanted to explore Mordekaiser and the Shadow Isles in the context of Valoran as a whole. This is the first chapter, I hope you like it. Constructive criticism is always welcome.
I never thought it would end like this.
Actually, I never thought about the end at all. Obsession is like that, and I see now that I was obsessed indeed. Could I have turned away? I suppose it is merely academic now. I cannot go back. No one ever goes back, no matter how we may strive and howl and lament. If I did not know this intuitively I would have seen it in the Gravedigger’s eyes. My obsession led me here. Not treachery, though treachery there was. Not fate, if fate there is. Was I lured? Undoubtedly. He is easily that cunning. He likely knew all along, watched my every step. It was my obsession, though, that held me to this dark path. His path.
The Murder-king. For a creature so renowned he is shrouded in inky tendrils of mystery. Who has not seen him wreak bloody havoc on the Fields of Justice? Champions of the League, bold and courageous as they are, do not hesitate to describe the cold knot of terror that coils in their gut when his massive armored form steps from the summoning altar. Will the power of the League hold him in check this time? Will he hold himself in check to the rules of the Institute? As well-known as he is on the Fields of Justice, however, very few can claim to have encountered him outside the protection of the Institute. I should amend that. Very few living can claim to have encountered him. The earliest accounts go back a thousand years, and even so there are only twelve or thirteen confirmed tales of his wanderings. Of his quests.
Of his murder-make.
I know each of them by heart. I study him, you see.
Why would a man do such a thing you ask? It is a good question, for which there is no good answer. Would you believe me if I claimed to have been the latest witness? Let us go with that. Let us gloss over the details of a young boy’s encounter with suffering incarnate in the twisting alleys of Noxus’ slums. No? You want details? Know then that I have witnessed exactly how long a man may live with his skin flensed from his writhing body. Know that I can still see the expression on a young woman’s face as her soul is drawn from her in a fashion that can only be described as leisurely. Is that enough for you? IS IT? I sought to understand what drives him to such acts. What purpose this suffering serves. Why he let me, of all people, live.
I wanted to understand the Murder-king.
I was well into middle age when the road began in earnest. In Noxus one can easily rise from the dregs of society to a position of influence if one has the moxie, the skill and the will. I, alas, cannot claim to have achieved any great degree of influence, but I was intelligent and driven enough to become a modestly successful hextech engineer. This was the source of my funding for my research, you see, as well as a number of tools for my own use. I sold small pistols for nobility, rifles for traders needing protection against bandits, engines for Zaun and Piltover. Strictly mid-range goods. I built up a modest fortune before beginning the bulk of my research.
You may think of research as long, boring days of pouring over tomes in a dusty library. Well there certainly are those, but there is also months of travel, to Demacia, Ionia, Zaun, even distant Freljord and Bilgewater. Few as they are, sightings of Mordekaiser occurred all over Valoran. I went to the places described in the accounts. There was no pattern to these. One was a grand mages palace. At the time it had been a wonder to behold. Columns of rose quartz, arranged to glow with the light of the sun at noon as it shone down through the oculus in the great dome overhead. The dome had been covered in frescoes of great battles, heroes and gods defending the innocent. When I came to the palace in my questing, the columns were shattered, the oculus dark, the frescoes peeled and faded. The gods and heroes had become twisted, desiccated mockeries of what they once depicted.
My first major find, however, lay deep in the hills leading to Mogron Pass, under the shadow of Mount Targon. What had once been a thriving trade village was now a barren flat, with only raised hillocks suggesting where foundations had once laid. I came to it at night, and when I closed my eyes halfway I imagined I could just make out ghostly shapes of the village as it was. Low roofs with tightly nailed shingles against the ever present wind off the mountain. The smell of cookfires and baking bread, the laughing of traders and they gathered at the inn. The sudden silence, falling like a weighted net over the village. The skewering, icy shot of panic up the spine of every man, woman and child as birds, dogs, cats, horses and other animals suddenly broke out in a cacophony of terrible screams and yowls. Cows ramming at their pens, horses straining at their tethers, rodents streaming from under houses and haystacks. And over it all, or perhaps under it, the steady, percussive steps of a figure in an impossibly massive suit of armor. He came first to a child, a young girl who had been playing in the road. She was petrified. He reached for her after a moments consideration and—
I screamed. The vision broke and though I was alone, it felt as if I had been hit hard in the gut. I cried. I, a grown man of forty years curled up on the bare ground of a mountain village long dead and wept the terrified cry of a child who knows nothing except that the pain won’t stop. It won’t ever stop.
When I came to myself, hours or days later, I was in a spartan room guarded by a man in light yet strong looking armor. It happened that while I was insensate on the ground a patrol of the Rakkor tribe had passed by and, in an uncharacteristically salubrious act, took me away from there to their settlement. I was still a wreck. Whenever I closed my eyes I saw that black steel-clad hand reaching for the young girl and my gorge rose. I could not eat. I never could eat much more than bare survival necessitated for the rest of my days. It took several days for me to feel stable enough to leave the small hospice they provided. When I did, I was swiftly collected by a pair of grim-visaged Rakkor warriors and brought before a legend.
Pantheon of the Rakkor Tribe, the Artisan of War, inspires plenty of fear in his own right. However where Mordekaiser fills one with the thick, clinging, tenebrous fear that clogs one’s senses and smothers one’s thoughts, the fear Pantheon inspires is the cold, sharp, clear fear that one feels when one faces perfectly ordinary danger. He is like a great panther from Kumungu. It is a wary, respectful fear that lets you know that you can live through this danger if you play your cards just right. After what I had just experienced, I felt like hugging him.
No, of course I didn’t. How could you even ask that?
I doubt many people outside his tribe have seen his face. It is a privilege I treasure. There are so few things in my life that I do, I thought I should mention it. It is a plain face, well made and symmetrical but not like the faces carved in stone statues of heroes in Demacia. His hair is cropped close in the Rakkor fashion, the color of mud. His eyes are a little too far apart, his nose obviously broken and reset many times over the course of his life. His lips are surprisingly full, his mouth wide. It seems made for smiles, but there are very few smiles lines on his face. I never have seen a Rakkor smile. All in all a pleasant face. He is still the most intimidating human being I have ever met.
He informed me that the land I was found on was considered blighted, and that no Rakkor ever steps off the road in its vicinity. I was not surprised in the least. I asked him if he knew why, and he nodded, his mouth tightening into a grim line. “Mordekaiser.” He said the name with fury, but fury tempered with respectful fear. Even the mighty Pantheon, foremost amongst humanity’s warriors, held trepidation in his voice when he spoke the name of the Murder-king. He must have faced Mordekaiser many times on the Fields of Justice, and I suppose that he has more reason than any to feel fear.
“Sixty-two years ago Mordekaiser appeared in the village. It was peak trading season, and the village was full of travelers and merchants. Nearly a thousand people all told.” Pantheon’s gaze was distant, his tremendous hands gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that I fancied the stone might crack. “He was looking for something. Someone. He usually is, the rumor goes. I don’t know if he found them. It. Whatever it was.” His eyes bored into mine, and I realized that as much as Pantheon was known for his martial prowess, his mind was keen as well. “You’re searching for him, aren’t you? I can think of no other reason for someone to be there. No one outside Rakkor even remembers where it was. We burned the remains and trampled the earth. No one would go there who was not looking. So I must conclude, you’re searching for Mordekaiser.”
I could not deny it. I was reluctant to reveal the nature of my quest to anyone, but who can lie to the Artisan of War’s face? I nodded. “I have seen him. I saw him kill… in my youth. I don’t know why he let me live. I need to find him.” Pantheon’s browns drew together in a scowl that would make an army drop their weapons and yield the field. “That is a madman’s quest.” I nodded sadly. He stared at me for a long while, his grey eyes not quite focused. I got the sense that he was coming to a difficult decision in his head. I closed my eyes, the vision once again filling my thoughts. An innocent young girl under the hand of immeasurable suffering. I felt myself sway, stomach heaving, and opened my eyes, stopping myself from falling over and heaving what little food I had been able to keep down all over the Artisan of War’s sandaled feet. I looked up again to see that his own eyes had regained their focus, a decision snapping into place behind them.
“I will entreat you one last time, abandon your quest.” There was no pleading, no threat behind the words. A simple statement, as close to compassion as a man was likely to get from one of the Rakkor.
“I cannot,” my voice was hoarse and faint. “I cannot,” This time it was stronger, I tried to sound more confident than I felt. “I need to know why. I need to understand.” Pantheon held my gaze a moment longer, then sighed, and nodded.
“Very well. I cannot deny that the world would be well-served if anyone could shed light onto the plans and motives of the Murder-king. If you cannot be swayed from this path, then I will lend you what aid I can, though it may lead to yet more suffering. Yours, and for others.” Pantheon gestured to one of the nearby Rakkor, whispering an order. A terse nod is all he gets in response. “There was one survivor of the massacre, all those years ago.” Pantheon’s voice is quiet, almost mournful. “A little girl, found on the road leading from the village, deathly ill. Diocletan here will take you to her. She is a healer here. She may have some information for you. If nothing else, perhaps speaking to another survivor will dissuade you from your insane goal.”
I followed the Rakkor warrior called Diocletan across the settlement. I thought we would go the whole route without either of us speaking, but around three quarters of the way he spoke, his voice surprisingly mellow. “The woman’s name is Clothilde. You will show her all deference due a woman her age. She is a healer of surpassing skill.” I didn’t know what to say in response, so I merely nodded and said nothing. We came, in time, to a modest but sturdy house. Diocletan’s massive fist rapped sharply on the doorpost. A young woman answered promptly, seeming small and frail next to the Rakkor, though in truth she was my own size and weight. “Mistress Clothilde has retired for the day. If it is not an emergency, please come back tomorrow.” Her voice was everything Diocletan’s was not. Cold, hoarse, and commanding. Diocletan spoke softly to her, turning her away from me so that I could not discern their words. After a time, though she clearly was not pleased, she gestured for me to enter, and the Rakkor warrior took his leave.
Like all Rakkor dwellings, Clothilde’s was spartan to the point of emptiness. A single table and two chairs in the main room. A small stove, a shelf with a single set of plates, bowls, and cutlery. A door to a rear chamber. “Sit.” The woman, Clothilde’s aide, or perhaps a relative I assumed, left me at the table. Time distorts in a bare chamber with no indication of its passing, but eventually Clothilde emerged. It could have been no one else. She leaned on a cane, but only lightly, moving confidently. Though age had obviously shrunken her and weighed her down, she was still robustly built, with strong, well cared for hands, high cheekbones and a heavy jaw. Her eyes, however, were filmed over, and I struggled to contain a gasp and shudder at the appearance of her face.
She probably would never have been called pretty in any case, but from a spot above her right eye, across her forehead and down the entire left side of her face the flesh was twisted, bunched up into oddly swirling scars. Boils dotted the area, which shined like a healed burn. I bit my tongue, composed myself as she took her seat. “Hello Mistress Clothilde.” It seemed like a safe enough greeting. “I appreciate you agreeing to meet with me.” That elicited a bark of laughter from the old woman. “As if even I would refuse a request by the mighty Pantheon himself. Huh. He was always a polite boy. Stern though. Most Rakkor smile once or twice in a lifetime at least!” Her voice was exactly how I imagined my grandmothers would have sounded, had I ever known her. I was caught off guard by her amicable demeanor, so out of place in this settlement of grim faced heroes. “He does project an air of command, doesn’t he?” I ventured, encouraged.
We made small talk for a short while, but she evidently sensed my impatience to come to the point. “So, boy, you want to learn more about Mordekaiser, do you?” I nodded, then, remembering her blindness, said, “I do, Clothilde. I understand if it’s difficult to speak—“
“Bah!” she cut me off. “It’s been sixty-two years. As nightmarish as it was, I wouldn’t have survived all these years amongst the Rakkor had I not been able to move past it.”
“I admit I find your comfort with the topic suprising,” I said.
“Comfort? Are you daft? But you get to my age and you learn to live with a measure of discomfort. I suffered. How I suffered! Mordekaiser murdered my entire family, my entire life. I was the first one to see him you know.” He voice grew more animated, and I got the sense that she was eager to tell me, to tell anyone the story. Had no one spoken of it with her in all these years?
“I was. A young girl, playing in the road, chasing… a dog? A chicken? I can’t quite remember. It’s not important I suppose. Everything just… stopped. For a minute or an hour, everything went quiet and cold.” I nodded. I had experienced something similar, and my… vision so far matched her tale. “Suddenly all hell broke loose… all of the animals screaming and howling, running from the village if they could, beating at their pens and yanking at their tethers if they could not. I remember… looking down the road. Wanting to puke. He wasn’t even in sight when it started, but I soon saw him walking up the road. I couldn’t look away.” Something clicked in my head. “You were the girl… in my vision!”
“Eh? Vision?” She paused.
“Y-yes. I was there… at the site of the village. Where it was. I saw it all. I saw you in the road. I saw him reaching for you. He… he just touched you?!” I was incredulous. To be touched by the Murder-king and live!
“He caressed me.” Her voice was tight now, brittle. I looked again at the scarring across her face. I couldn’t imagine the pain.
“He made you watch.”
“Yes.” My breath caught. The vision flashed in my head once more, and I fought down nausea.
“Listen to me boy. Mordekaiser killed hundreds of people that day, but he had one victim.” Her voice relaxed then. “He seems to exist to cause pain. Of course he does. But the pain doesn’t last so long for the ones he kills, does it? No, the pain he wants is the pain of those that survive. Like me. Like you.” I jump a little in my seat. How had she known?
How could she not?
We sit in silence for a time. I think I may have wept a little. She might have as well. I cannot remember any more, even such moments grow hazy now. After a time, though, she went on. “He had another goal. We… I imagine we were just victims in passing. Amusements on the way. He dragged a man from an inn, towards the end. The ground was strewn with the shredded remains of a hundred men. I didn’t hear their words. My face was burning agony by then, but I saw the man scream. I heard him scream. The whole time Mordekaiser pulled his soul from his broken body, he didn’t stop. When it was over, the man’s ghost stood before the Murder-king. Questions were asked, answers given. I couldn’t make out the words. Then the ghost faded, and he left.” Her face was composed now. Her voice flat. What fortitude she had, to relive these memories!
“What could be be looking for?”
“How should I know? I am not some grand mage, some summoner of the League to delve into a man’s thoughts, much less a monster’s.” I sighed audibly, then something she had said hit me. “A summoner!” I exclaimed. Clothilde looked alarmed. “What?” she asked.
“A summoner. Mordekaiser serves in the Fields of Justice, so there must be summoners who know him. Better than anyone else could.” Clothilde looks sorrowful now. “You may well be right. That would likely be the next place to look. But don’t expect to easily get into the confidences of any summoner, much less the kind that would work with Mordekaiser!”
We said our goodbyes at her door. Right as I was turning from her to leave, she grabbed me in her impressively strong grip, and pulled me into a tight embrace. Then, holding me at arm’s length, she rasped, “Please, consider my words and take them to heart. Mordekaiser wanted us to suffer for the rest of our lives. But you can move past it. Go home. Live your life and live it well. Abandon him. You can choose to deny him. Every moment you chase him, keep him foremost in your thoughts, he continues to succeed.”
She was right of course. I knew it then, though I chose to pretend otherwise. I arranged for passage back to my home in Noxus. There I would rest, resupply, and prepare for the next stage of my journey. It was a place ordinary people like myself rarely went. A place of heroes and demigods.
The Institute of War.
[CENTER]***End Chapter One***[/CENTER]