Thanks for your patience!
I hope the descriptions of battle continue to be somewhat realistic and understandable. I did a lot of research on Roman army formation and stuff to get a better understanding but it's still pretty over my head. Plus, it had to be heavily altered to account for things like magic and shtuff.
OH YEAH~ So Valren on is translating The Only Truth into Spanish! Hurray! I can't read it myself but I bet it's spot on Thank you so much! You can check it at s/8908016/1/La-Verdad-Absoluta.
Ooooh, the title of this chapter is a band!
Explosions in the Sky: Part One
Darius stumbled as his still-moving feet landed on unfamiliar ground and the instant his eyes laid upon the summoner who had forcibly caused him to retreat, the Hand's confusion turned into unbridled fury. The summoner tripped over his own feet in his haste to move out of range of the man's vicious axe, but as the soldier prepared the weapon for a swift execution, the Grand General's voice called to him from behind.
"Stay your hand, Commander. I would not have you kill someone acting under my own orders."
Darius whipped around angrily to see Swain stepping down from the carriage which served as his moving command center positioned at the rear of the now-stopped army. His red robes which distinguished him as the Grand General were scarcely visible under the heavy layers of armor he wore. A chain shirt peeked from under a his heavy tunic, both rimmed with gold and belted at the waist. The silver breastplate on his torso was belted over his shoulder and a thick cord connecting his silver and gold pauldrons hung across it. Feathers so black they appeared blue and matching the raven which perched on his shoulder jutted from underneath, and a heavy cape the same color fell from his back. He'd traded his notched wooden cane for a smooth staff with a golden raven's head mounted on top, its cruelly sharp beak curving down toward Swain's claw-like hand. A fitted black collar covered from the General's neck to nose, and a plumed helm was tucked under his arm. Such colorful and oversized armor should have swallowed a man of Swain's stature, but the Tactician wore them easily, his red eyes blazing like fire commanding more attention than his garb.
"SWAIN!" Nearby soldiers and summoners flinched at the Hand's red-faced rage, but Jericho Swain continued his calm approach. He still used his staff to walk, but his limp seemed lessened as he strode purposefully toward his subordinate.
"Do you intend to behead me as so many before me for ordering your early return?" the Tactician asked, his voice betraying no hint of fear as he cut straight to point.
The axe begged for blood to right such a grievous wrong; Darius never retreated. "Retreat is weakness, Swain!" he growled, bringing the axe to rest at the General's neck; the camp didn't move, didn't breathe. "The only way I leave a battle is victorious or dead! I was ready to die-"
"And I needed you to live," Swain replied coolly. "The battle has not even begun; did your ghost plan to lead my troops?" When the Hand said nothing and his axe remained still, the older man shook his head and turned. "There are larger things at stake than your paltry honor. Do not forget that. If you are so concerned, then be sure to win next time. Now come. Vessaria wishes to attempt a negotiation."
"Why isn't anyone moving?" Katarina muttered to Talon, tracing and retracing her steps along the highest ridge of rock along the city's Southern border. "It's been a too long; why is nothing happening?"
From their point, the two assassins had watched as Swain's army slowly ground to a halt North-East from them, not more than a mile away. And shortly after him, the Institute of War with an army of summoners, Champions, and soldiers smaller than Swain's, but larger than their own, finally stopped their own march, coming to rest North-West of Kalamanda, but still largely situated between Swain and the Institute.
That had been thirty minutes ago, and since then, they'd watched as High Councilors Vessaria Kolminye and Kiersta Mandrake stood with Jericho Swain and his Hand Darius in the rocky field between their respective armies. What Katarina would have given to be listening to that conversation.
Her adoptive brother shrugged his shoulders slowly, never peeling the borrowed spyglass from his face. "They keep gesturing over here. Maybe they're planning to attack us together. Wouldn't that be a riot?"
"Real ****ing hilarious," she grumbled. "Are they still talking?"
"Yep. Looks heated maybe?" Talon handed her the yordle-sized hand held telescope and rubbed his eyes. "Kiersta and Darius are walking away." The red-head took up the watch, trying to guess what Swain and Vessaria could be talking about alone, and everything seemed to happen at once. She saw the High Councilor reach out a hand to the General, but as he reached to take it, the Noxian paused, and suddenly the raven that perched customarily on his shoulder swooped down, talons raking into the summoner's arm, and for a second Katarina could have sworn the woman's image flickered... But before she could even consider what she'd seen a loud crack sounded throughout the area and Vessaria and Swain were flung away from each other to land in the dusty ground. They staggered to their feet and seemed to yell something at each other, before storming back toward their respective armies.
"Holy ****!" Katarina breathed, shoving the spyglass at Talon and taking off at a sprint down the path, her bewildered brother close on her heels; they hadn't even reached the village before the air was filled with the thunder of marching. No one needed to see what had happened to know what those sounds meant, and as the DuCouteau's dashed toward their "command" center, their motley army was already forming into make-shift ranks.
The building was noisy and crowded with Champions: at the center of the clamor sat Jarvan, Garen, and Riven, trying their best to construct a plan. Teemo sat on the map arguing with Lux and Shyvana; Sona plucked out an anxious tune nearby Zilean, who was shaking his head; Blitzcrank in the opposite corner disputed Nasus's tactics with statistics.
Katarina crossed the room and put a hand on Garen's back, who was now clad in his old Vanguard armor, and leaned in to whisper urgently, "If we're going to do something it needs to be now. Swain and Vessaria are fighting each other."
The Demacian turned to her, finding solace in her fierce green eyes. A look of resolve came to his face, and he abruptly he stood, slamming his fist onto the table. The room grew quiet.
"Listen up everyone," he bellowed. "We can't debate what-if's anymore, so here's what's going to happen. With Vessaria at his back, Swain's in a bad position; he can't take this town without turning his back to her, and he's blocking her from reaching Kalamanda. They've made the mistake of ignoring us to fight each other. We need to use this to our advantage. We wait for them to start fighting, then go in."
"And what's to stop them from turning on us both when they see us approaching?" Riven shot back. "We need to be more cautious!"
Garen scowled at the argument but it was his sister who replied. "I can bend the light around us. They won't see us coming," she declared, aiming a disarming smile at Riven who fell into silence. "Besides, you should know how chaotic a battlefield is. They're not just going to stop fighting each other to fight us."
"AFTER RE-EVALUATING THE FACTS, THERE IS A 41% POSSIBILITY OF SUCCESS," Blitzcrank intoned, and for a moment it seemed like the room was going to burst into despair again, until Talon weakly joked, "That's better than before," and a low chuckle went through the room. Sona brought her hands to bear and played a short but powerful measure of encouraging notes and the mood shifted to one of determination.
"Teemo, we need scouts keeping an eye on Vessaria and Swain at all times, and always looking for LeBlanc," Jarvan added. "The last thing we want is someone slipping through our fingers. No one tries to run without our knowing."
The yordle looked to Garen, who nodded, and his yellow eyes closed as his characteristic grin took over his face. "Got it."
"Everyone move out!" Garen cried and the walls shook with the cheers in response. The room emptied quickly as Champions rushed to assume gather their equipment and form ranks, until only the former commander and a Noxian assassin remained.
"Command suits you," she teased, tugging on the blue cloth that circled his neck. "I like it when you take charge."
His blush told her he'd caught the subtle innuendo, but the Demacian only replied, "I don't know why I'm leading this group. This is too important. Any mistakes... if we don't succeed it will be my fault. Even Jarvan deferred his judgment to me-"
"You helped to bring everyone together," she interjected. "Of course they're going to look to you for guidance. You're strong and not half-bad at planning, but even more than that, they respect you." The assassin smiled, placing a hand on his cheek. "Stop doubting yourself. You're the only one that does." Garen leaned into her touch, at a loss for words.
"I want to be in the vanguard," Katarina continued, and he quickly snapped his head in the negative.
"No, you can't-"
Her eyes flashed. "I'm insulted that you would even try that **** with me. You know I'm better than any soldier, Demacian or Noxian, faster at killing than almost any other Champion, and with more experience outside the League. You're going to be running around trying to lead; you need someone to watch your back and help you figure out what's going on." She smirked, "Really, you shouldn't even be in the front rank at all."
Garen frowned, but he couldn't deny the logic in her statement. "Is there any way I can change your mind?" he finally sighed.
She stood on her toes to plant a kiss on his lips, then patted his cheek, a grin on her face. "Hell no."
Assembled at the edge of the village, it was hard not to feel apprehensive as they watched Swain's army advance toward Vessaria's, Kalamanda and its inhabitants all but forgotten. There was still no sign of Pantheon, and Garen had long since shelved his hopes that Freljord, Ionia, or Piltover would miraculously come to their aid, but it made him appreciate the army at his back all the more. It was near certain death they were walking into, so heavily outnumbered, but they stayed in their lines, eyes forward, weapons readied.
"This is it everyone," Garen shouted, pacing up and down the staggered ranks. He was never one for speeches, but he knew a few words of encouragement would help to boost morale; it certainly made him feel better. In the distance, the sounds of clashing steel could be heard now, and the sky flashed as magic flew, but the commander swallowed and raised his voice. "We're all here from different backgrounds and alliances, but we're here together. Don't forget why we're fighting! This is about more than money, city-states, or even the League. This is about saving our homes and our rights. We're here to save Valoran!"
It wasn't his best, but his ears were ringing from the cheers. Before returning to his position in the second rank, Garen turned to look over the army one last time. Most of the soldiers he'd trained and fought with in the Dauntless Vanguard had assumed the same role under Jarvan and Anders' command, taking the front lines across the front ranks almost exclusively; Shyvana claimed her Elite Guard for the second ranks and most of the League Champions fell in with her, ready to press forward when the Vanguard started to tire. Behind them, the third rank was comprised of Champions and summoners who could use magic in support of the soldiers, while the Rakkor flanked both sides along with the longer-ranged Champions and offensive mages.
Lux's light screen was working; no one so much as turned their direction. The sounds grew louder, singing steel and crackling magic and the screams of the injured and dying all masking their approach. Then Garen signaled and they began to run, hearts beating as fast as their feet; at the last moment, the screen dropped and for a split second there seemed to be a shocked silence as the front wave broke on the unsuspecting side of the combating armies.
The Vanguard tore through the first opposing line without objection, soldiers and summoners alike falling to them. Then everything turned to chaos.
It seemed strange to Garen, to watch people pass him when he was so accustomed to being at the front, but he shook his head and directed those soldiers in the rank to his right who were already forcing their way through Swain's startled rear guard. A light touch on his shoulder alerted him to Talon's presence at his side, and he gave the assassin a brief nod and said, "Go!" In a flash, the hooded Noxian melted into the ranks of Swain's army, cutting down those in the way to his destination. As Talon disappeared, Katarina followed on a mission of her own. They would try to keep Swain ignorant as long as they could by killing any couriers that might try to reach him. The Tactician was too clever for it to last long, but every second bought was another one of his men dead. From a distance he could see that Swain was in the centre of his army giving orders atop an armored destrier, but now that they were upon them, Garen couldn't make him out at all. All he could do was hope Katarina wouldn't fall into anything from which she couldn't get away.
The Demacian soldiers, Rakkor, and Champions that comprised the rank to Garen's right were already pushing through the Noxian summoners that had been taking by surprise. Without the advantage of distance, the mages were nearly helpless, and those who could see the Mount Targon residents approaching began to scatter. Even his sister helped push them forward, dashing around behind them, shielding allies with a delicate toss of her baton, and blinding enemies with a gleeful smile. But the Noxian soldiers defending toward the rear, mostly reserves or the tired or wounded, were alerted to their presence and rushed in, breaking rank in the process and leaving holes for the Vanguard to exploit. Satisfied, Garen ran back to the center.
Over the din of the field, Jarvan's commands floated through the air and the commander signaled Shyvana and the other Champions in the second rank to push forward to aid. With a fierce scream of her own, the Half-Dragon led her first line of soldiers forward to fill in the space left by the Vanguard. His heart lurched in his stomach as Garen realized how quickly they were moving forward, and that soon he would be near enough to do more than shout orders and encouragements.
To the left, the difference in discipline between Vessaria's summoners and soldiers versus Swain's was becoming clear. They were a powerful group, especially the summoners, but they weren't veterans in real warfare; when confronted by Garen's misfit army, they descended into short-lived panic. Garen knew Vessaria to be riding through her army in a chariot though he couldn't see her, but if his soldiers continued their relentless attack, she would have no choice but to call a retreat.
Through the chaos came a glimmer of red hair and Katarina slipped back into rank next to Garen, already splattered with blood and gore. "Things aren't looking good for Vessaria but Swain's gonna figure us out real s-"
A loud shriek pierced the air and the pair looked up to see Swain's raven flying overhead, then diving back to what could only be Swain's location. The results were almost instantaneous: Those soldiers in charge began shouting orders to reform and as quickly as they'd come, the gaps in the lines closed, and progress halted. Even as they pushed forward with a new line of troops, every attempt to break past was met with resistance; with a grim frown, Garen realized that the Master Tactician was called so for a reason. If it came down to a war of attrition, Swain would easily be the last one standing.
Across the field, LeBlanc watched from her perch as her army struggled to keep their ground, her perfect teeth gritted and her knuckles whitening around her staff. For every soldier that fell to a summoner's magic, another took his place and they didn't stop coming. It was bad enough being forced to war like this, when she so preferred battles of word and wit, but the worst was knowing she would soon be forced to give Swain the satisfaction of her retreat. She shot a glare at the motley group which had pressed themselves against both her and Swain; if not for that unanticipated turn, LeBlanc might have taken Jericho on the field.
LeBlanc did not bother to turn or mask her displeasure at the voice of the other High Summoner. "What is it, Kiersta?" Another whimpering protest about the state of affairs, no doubt.
What she did not expect was the sudden inability to breath as tendrils of magic snaked and squeezed around her throat. A choking cry fell from her lips and she tried to pivot and face her attacker only to find that she was rooted firmly in place.
"Y-you've betrayed Valoran with your f-folly, Vessaria Kolminye," Kiersta said, shakily at first then with growing confidence. "You must answer for your crimes!" Around her, the summoners and soldiers bustled past, but even LeBlanc knew nothing would look out of the ordinary with the magic suffocating her unseen.
Think, think, she couldn't think; the sounds of swords were grating in her head and the pressure behind her eyes was growing. An orb of magic shot from her staff, but it was weak and only caused Kiersta to wince. LeBlanc opened her mouth, tried to suck in air, failed. Attack – no, didn't work – need to break her concentration – such an unfamiliar feeling, fear. The Deceiver took the only course left to her.
She dispelled the illusion.