Alas, it has been FAR too long since my last update. So, I hope this is more to your liking. In this, we get a glimpse into Riven's inner world and the turmoil she lives with. Anyway, I'll stop blabbering and let you all enjoy this since you've waited long enough for it.
Chapter 2 - “Negotiations” [Part 2]
Trees whizzed by, blurred by the speed as footfalls and cracked twigs echoed through the forest. Her chest burned, but she couldn’t stop now. Faster and faster she went, as the branches seemed to close in from every angle. Icy droplets pelted her face and soaked through her clothes, freezing against burning hot flesh. Her vision blurred from the water as she blinked, hard, to clear her sight. All at once, she was falling, a sickening thud reverberating through the ground as she tumbled end over end, cuts and gashes opening across her arms. Instinct took over, however, and in a flash, she’d rolled onto her back, the sound of metal on metal screeching through the freezing blackness as blade met blades. With a ferocious cry she threw the blades aside, leapt onto her feet, and was off once again.
Whizzing followed in her wake as a hail of thrown knives embedded themselves in her back and trees to either side, a whimpering cry of pain coming from her lips. Red blood stained the ground below, bright against the dull brown and green mess, but still she kept moving. Over fallen logs, through bushes thick with thorns that cut deep scratches into her bare legs, she continued running as fast as her legs could carry her. A howl tore through the dark as claws burst from the underbrush, clashing with her blade as it pulsed with green energy, bisecting the clawed hand and removing the arm associated with it. Hot blood stained her white tunic as she spun around to face her attacker, seeing nothing.
Wings descended upon her as shrieking calls echoed through the tree limbs, black shapes ripping at her flesh even as she roared out a challenge, slashing wildly. Black feathers fell around her as talons burst from the ground, holding her in place and pulling her to her knees. Pain shot up her spine, screaming at her brain as she mirrored the cry. Frantic, she scanned the area. Gone were the trees. She was left in a clearing, still anchored to the ground as blood mixed with freezing droplets. As she watched, the figures approached. Swirling masses of black, as if darkness itself had solidified into bodies of shadow and smoke, circled her. Twin blades spun in the hands of one, a wicked smile smeared across the inky blackness. Yellowed claws graced the ground below another as the hulking form growled, a sickly tongue dragging across the maw. Another was cloaked in shadow, indeed made of it, save for the single blade upon its arm, and piercing white eyes of flame. A swirling mass of black stood above them all, six flaming, blood red eyes, gazing down upon the crippled form below.
Riven struggled against the binds at her legs, feeling her flesh starting to give way as she inched free, bit by bit. However, it was of no use. The six red eyes nodded in the direction of her, and as her eyes opened wide, a storm of blades, claws, talons, a bolt of blood red and black energy, and knives stuck her. She felt every strike, and she felt every strike miss lethal damage. The agony was indescribable, and she cried out as she forced herself to rise through it all, her sword still thundering with crackling green power as she swung, blades of emerald slashing at the shadows. All but the mass of black with red eyes faded, seemingly felled by the torrent of power. A raspy, echoing laugh came from it as Riven cried out to it. “End it already!! That is what you want, isn’t it!?”
“No…” It replied in a hollow, otherworldly voice. “It is what – they- want.” A clawed arm rose, pointing behind Riven as she turned. Sprawled across the clearing were bodies. Bodies, burned beyond recognition, some clothed in armor, others in nothing at all, others still hobbling from missing limbs, stood before her, numbering in the hundreds. Men, women, children, fallen soldiers, they all began marching toward her, the smell of rotting flesh, acidic chemicals, copper, and mud reached her nostrils as Riven backed away. Her legs weakened, however, and she fell backwards, dragging herself away as the horde grew nearer. Tears and guilt wracked Riven’s form as she crawled through the muck. This was the testament to her sins. The lives she had ended were cast before her, plain for all to see. As they neared, she could hear them speaking. Some cried out for loved ones, others cursed her name.
“You should have died with us, coward!”
“You are weak... And the weak must perish…”
“Mommy? Where are you mommy? Mommy, please say something!”
“I will end you, Noxian, like the dog you are.”
“You will know true suffering…”
“My son! Has anyone seen my son? Please!”
“No more, please no more! Get it off of me!!”
“Your arm… Give it to me…”
Riven’s eyes were wide as they reached her, hands pulling at her hair, her arms, her sword, her clothing, everything. They pressed her down into the muck, eyes boring into her as the sheer mass of them closed in, suffocating her in their stench and their presence. Fingers clawed across her skin, chemicals etching red lines across her skin as well and violating any possible zone of comfort she still had, driving her even more over the edge. She screamed. It was unlike any she had ever heard before. It was bloodcurdling, filled with sheer, unbridled terror.
Bodies fell away in an instant, screams echoing up into the ashen sky as a thunderous force cut them down. Cold blood spattered across Riven as a single black form surged overhead. Flashing metal splayed open the bodies as a sound tore through the screams: laughter, joyous laughter. Flashes of green burned away bodies left and right as the numbers fell away, one by one. Their screams continued, wailing out in pain and terror. This wasn’t a fighting force any more. This was a slaughter. Riven shuddered, pulling herself upright, weak from blood loss and simple shock. Her body was numb from the cold, the drops feeling like icy needles against her ragged wounds. “…Stop…” Her voice was weak, barely above a whisper as the screams and laughter continued.
“So weak! You’re NOTHING against me!” Any attempt by Riven to rise any further was halted as the voice came from the figure. Ice water flowed through Riven’s veins as the figure stood, sneering, and a lone body running from it. Riven recognized it immediately as it looked back to the figure, a look of terror across its face. It was the Ionian girl who had started everything that day.
“No…!” Riven cried out as sickly green energy splayed the girl in two, carving a trench through the earth. The figure with the sword turned to look at Riven, and began walking towards her as Riven spoke. That voice, she knew it. It was her voice, and as Riven watched, the figure stepped closer. Blood and gore stained the black and green form of her blackstone rune blade, the Noxian armor tarnished from wear and tear. A thick brown cloak covered her shoulders and most of her face, leaving only a pair of amber eyes, a few strands of silvery hair, and that same sneer.
“What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” The gore-covered Riven spoke, her voice silky smooth and hardened, calloused from the years of killing. “I wouldn’t worry too much though. There’s only one more weakling to dispose of before this is all over.”
“No… I’m not… I’m not this…” The other Riven laughed as Riven tried to defend herself, stabbing her sword into the ground and crossing her arms across the hilt.
“Oh please. This is what you are. Don’t deny it. The feel of flesh rending from bone as it slides across the blade, the sound of the blood being freed, you know it, and deep, deep down, you felt that euphoria.” The other Riven bent down, staring directly into her face, only a couple inches apart from the bloodied Riven, still sporting a smirk colder and more self-satisfied than even Katarina Du Couteau. “You’d ended a life, snuffed out another weaker than yourself, and every time you did, you relished in it a little more. But, you’re right. Someone like you doesn’t deserve anything but pain, and death.” A finger trailed along Riven’s cheek where blood was dribbling from a head wound as the other Riven pulled back away. “You see this? This is the sign of your weakness.” Blood smeared between her fingers as she continued to speak. “Now look at yourself. You’re covered in it. Weakness!” A foot swiped forward and kicked Riven in her chest, drilling home agony as she was pinned to the ground. “Weakness! Weakness! Weakness! Weakness!!” Each repeat of the word caused the foot to stomp down harder than the last, Riven feeling her ribs give under the power of the woman standing in front of her. The other Riven licked her finger clean of Riven’s blood, giggling, before she took her blade in one hand, raising it high above her head. Her final words echoed as the blade dropped. “Only the strong survive…”
Riven screamed, bolting upright in bed, her heart pounding. She was absolutely drenched in cold sweat, and her body was trembling madly. Her eyes shot to the corners of her room, darting back and forth between the shadows, expecting something terrible to pour from them. Her hands moved to her arms, her chest, and her face as she felt around for injuries, and upon finding none, she slumped, exhaling heavily. What she did find, however, were tears mixed with the sweat across her brow. As she sat in bed, still trembling, her lip quivered, and this time, she had nothing to distract her.
Her body shook with full, heavy sobs as she wept. It was like this every single night. She would close her eyes, and the dreams would come. She knew that some slept to escape their troubles, but for her, there was no escape, even in slumber. Sometimes unseen forces hunted her. Sometimes she was besieged alone in the fields. The worst, however, were some strange conglomeration of them all, like the one she had just witnessed. Inner demons surfaced, and always brought fear and guilt. The worst part of it all was that she had no one to comfort her, no one to speak to, and no one in which to confide. So, she would weep bitter tears over the memories of the slain, over the crushing loneliness, and for all the suffering she, and those she had killed, were forced to endure. After a time, her tears ceased, and she was left with a heavy feeling in her chest. It was emptiness, always there. No matter how long she wept or how hard she fought, it was always there, seeking an opening to flood back into her heart. She exhaled in a long, shuddery sigh.
The pain she suffered, she suffered alone. Ultimately, she knew that it was Noxus that had filled her head with such grand and twisted ideals of strength, but it didn’t change the fact of her actions. Those that were lost would forever haunt her until she could atone for her sins. Riven turned her attention to her hands. They wouldn’t stop fidgeting. Her hands were always stained in the blood of her victims, and no amount of metaphorical scrubbing could clean them. Her fingers clung to themselves, intertwining as she wrestled with the guilt. These soft hands, the hands of a still-young woman, had done grand and terrible things. To look at them, one would never know. Her reddened eyes looked to her sword, stashed against the wall of her small room.
The shattered blade reminded her where she came from, but also reminded her of her resolve. Those that had died, killed by Noxus and her own hand, deserved justice, and they deserved retribution. They had no voice, other than in her dreams, but she would fight on for them in the hopes that, someday, they could find solace in the fact that their deaths had not entirely been in vain. Only when she could make others in Noxus understand would her victims be able to find peace. That’s why she was here, after all, to fix the broken and shattered Noxus, and revitalize it into something more.
As she came out of her introspection, she glanced to the small clock on the wall, and realized it was shortly before dawn. There was no point to attempting to sleep once more. With a sigh and a yawn, she pulled herself out of her bed. Her bare feet touched the ground and she shivered. She never had enjoyed the cold, but it got her blood pumping and woke her up better than anything else. She started with her neck, rolling it side to side and stretching the muscles in every direction. After her neck were her arms. She bent and flexed each one on each side, then raised them over her head and bent at her waist side-to-side, front and back. She smiled faintly as she heard her back crack a couple times.
She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then released it, feeling her stomach and chest expand and contract. That breath allowed her to relax, releasing the tension she’d felt only a few moments before. It had always been like this, she thought. Even back then, her instructors were always surprised by her tenacity. No matter what had been troubling her, she always seemed to shed whatever it was and dive headlong into the task at hand. Right now, she thought, her task was her morning routine of stretches. Her left leg slid off to her side as her right bent at the knee, stretching her thighs and calves. She bounced slightly on each leg, alternating between the two until they both felt a small burn.
Her body warmed, she stood and spread her legs, her right leg leading, as she slowly extended her right arm. In a slow and fluid motion, she lifted her right leg, pivoting on her left foot to turn to face the opposite direction. Her right arm bent at the elbow and swooped around, following her turning torso. In a third motion she lifted her left leg, pivoting on her right foot now as she swung her right arm around across the full range of motion and bringing it in front of her once more before she pulled her arm back, and raised it above her head, her left leg rising and bending at the knee as she balanced on her right leg. Fluidity, strength, and grace, these were the finer aspects of Noxian swordplay. The sword was like an extension of her arm. For something so massive, she had needed to train constantly. Wielding a two-handed sword in a single hand was a great feat, and even more so for a young girl barely capable of wielding a weapon as long as she was tall. Each strike, she was told, had to be swift and sudden, and so, she trained hard until her muscles ached, her bones were sore, and until she could barely stand. In the end, however, she had mastered a weapon that few Noxian soldiers wielded, and even less wielded it in a single hand.
Riven stood and sighed as she remembered the day she had received her sword. She had proven herself in test after test, defeated countless opponents with amazing skill and ability, and in order to reward her, she had been called before General Marcus Du Couteau himself. He was heralded to be the finest swordsman in all of Noxus, and his family was of the highest nobility. He beckoned her forward, and she knelt as he stepped forward, a massive shape hidden beneath a white cloth. His words from that day still stuck with her, even after everything that had happened…
The air was thick with silence as Riven held her gaze at the General’s feet. She dared not meet his eyes unless called upon for fear of insulting him. To do so would be tantamount to treason. His boots were heavy against the steps before her as he approached. The High Council’s chamber was filled with several high-ranking Noxian officials and other generals, as well as her master. Light came from above, beating down on her and causing her white clothes to shine brightly. She could almost feel the eyes of Noxus’ most powerful people bearing down on her. As she knelt, General Du Couteau’s voice echoed through the chamber.
“In Noxus, strength and tenacity are everything. We live, and we die, by strength. Here, even the lowliest of peasant can rise to become renowned throughout her country.” The general paused as he glanced around the room before looking down to Riven. “Few can claim they embody this spirit more than you, Riven. You came from nothing, and yet you have proven yourself to be the single most tenacious soldier I have ever seen. There are many kinds of strength. Some hide in the shadows to prey upon their opponent when they are weakest, and take advantage of it. Others use brute force to overcome any obstacle. But you, Riven, you stride boldly into combat, eyes fierce with conviction, blade unwavering against the threat of death, and never before have I seen a soldier so committed to the ideals that we hold close at hand.” The General paused for a moment before speaking once more. “Rise.”
Riven stood, looking straight ahead towards the general as he held the massive weapon in his hands. As she watched, he pulled back the cloth hiding it to reveal the weapon’s true size. The general continued. “You have proven yourself a most capable soldier. Your strength and conviction are to be rewarded. A resolve and a fierceness like no other demands a weapon like no other. This is a blackstone rune blade, forged in the heart of Noxus herself, and enchanted by our most powerful summoners. It represents the very strength of Noxus poured into a single weapon of incredible power. As you embody the strength of the Noxian spirit, so too shall this blade.” General Du Couteau stepped forward, holding the blade before Riven. “Place your hand upon the blade.” His voice was strong, powerful, the voice of a true soldier and general. He did not need to ask again, as Riven placed her right hand upon the blade.
“Riven of Noxus, do you swear unto Noxus and her people, your life, your blood, and all that you are, until the day that you die? That you shall never raise your blade against her, and that you will fight to end all that would oppose her strength, no matter the cost to yourself?”
“I do…” Riven’s voice was strong as her amber eyes met the general’s. “Until the day that I pass from this world, my life, and all that I am, shall belong to Noxus.” The general allowed a brief smile before he spoke again.
“Then this sword, and all it represents, is yours. May the power within it, and within you, guide you.” The general offered the weapon to Riven, and she graciously accepted it, feeling the weight of the blade for the very first time. As she grasped it, the green Noxian runes pulsed with energy faintly, coming to life. “Forever Strong.” The general placed his arm across his chest as he recited the city’s motto.
“Forever Strong, General, Sir.” The general nodded at her returned salute before continuing.
“With the gift of this blade, this Council formally recognizes your skill and prowess. As your training is long complete, it is the will of this Council that you be sent to the front lines of the Ionian Invasion Force. There, you will put your abilities to use in bringing new lands into our empire…”
The memories faded as Riven finished her warm up. Despite her sword being shattered, her self-imposed exile, and all the guilt she felt, she still had not broken her oath. Noxus may have been broken, but she would fight to make it something she could truly love once again. Then, and only then, could she truly find inner peace. She lifted her white tunic and slipped in on, covering her body, before she wrapped her sandals around her feet and adjusted the straps that held them snugly against her calves. She pondered putting her hair up for a moment before she decided against it. It had been so long since she was able to leave it down, and she could use the unfamiliar style to keep away unwanted attention. After brushing her teeth with a cold flow of water from the faucet, she turned and headed for her bed.
As she pulled the sheets into position, her eyes caught sight of a small white envelope that had been pressed under her door. She waltzed over to the door and picked up the envelope, flipping it over a few times as she examined it. The front was sealed with dark blue wax, and the edges of the paper, she saw, were traced and imprinted with small sets of runes, glowing a faint gold. How puzzling. She pulled up on the wax, releasing the hold as the runes flashed and faded. She recognized the runes as an incantation to allow only the intended reader of the letter to open it. It had been used to send low priority messages for many years throughout the Noxian state. This, however, was something different.
As the seal gave way, the interior let off a poof of pink smoke, and the air smelled instantly of roses. Riven drew back and sighed. She knew what this was. It was that time of year in Valoran, after all. Her suspicions were dashed, however, as she pulled the pink-tinged paper free from the envelope and read it silently to herself.
To: Miss Riven
From: Your Trusted Summoner
I’m not exactly the type to make these sorts of things, but since I’m the only one you’ve really let into your mind, I felt you could use one of these. I know that deep down inside, you’re alone, and you feel like you cannot reach out to anyone. It is the rule of all summoners to not make use of the information within the minds of the champion they summon to gain an edge over them in any way. I don’t know if this breaks that rule or not, but since this seems to be the reason of the season, I hope you’ll forgive me.
I envy your strength and conviction. In my life, I have longed to embody those qualities, and to be a strong example to others of kindness, strength, and integrity. Yet, I feel like, at my core, I can’t hope to be anything more than a lesser summoner. I’m certainly not the most skilled, but I do try my best regardless. So, I hope that in some way, you will allow the enclosed gift to show that you have inspired me to keep trying, and to press forward to become more than what I am. Thank you, for being you, Riven.
“The Crimson-Eyed Knight”
Riven smiled slightly as she read the letter. It was certainly not what she had expected. Over the past few days she had received several “Valentines” as they were called. Most of them would praise her physical attributes, likening them to statues of goddesses, or commenting on her eyes being “like amber pools of sunlight” or other such sappy drivel. She had no interest in these, and had thrown away many. Her least favorite of the letters were simply a description of lewd acts that some of the summoners would perform if given the chance. She counted those particular senders lucky they had not released their names, otherwise she would have hunted them down and made them regret saying such things. However, the small note from her summoner that day had made her smile. She inspired someone out there, even after all the atrocities she had committed? It seemed impossible, but the note and the small gift inside the envelope were proof enough to suggest it was indeed fact.
As she tipped the envelope over, a small trinket fell into her palm. It was a pendant, not fancy or gaudy, but very plain. It looked like a small circular shield made of dark metal with a clear green circle set in the center. It was similar to the shield of Pantheon, the Artisan of War. Of course, only a mouse could wield such a thing as this, she mused. She flipped it over and noticed some text inscribed along the back of the metal circle surrounding the green disk: “Victoria propter Honoris” – “Victory through Honor.” It was a fitting gift.
Riven said nothing as she slipped the pendant around her neck, the shield sitting nicely against her skin, just below her collar bones. She turned to look at herself in the mirror, seeing the face of the young woman she had seen a week or two prior. This image, too, was different, and she did not recognize it either. There was a small smile, and a hint of a blush, on her face, and the sadness and grief present on her features were lessened. For just a moment, she wondered if this woman could even exist under all the death she had caused, but she quickly shook her head. She did not deserve such things. She was a warrior of Noxus, even if Noxus had turned its back on her. Riven turned away from the mirror. The woman in the reflection was not, and could not be, her. Without a word, Riven left her room, and headed towards the Institute’s eating area for breakfast.