Warning: there is some blood in this one.
Chapter Three: Pain for Power
Lightning scarred the ground, water boiled from the intensive heat, trees and brush burned as the flames consumed them, and the ground was littered with craters. Xerath and Syndra, unleashing their powers against one another, had only been fighting for ten minutes, yet neither showed a hint of tiring.
Xerath had to unchain himself from the ground whenever she moved out of his range, allowing her to strike with her orbs. Whenever she did, he knocked them aside, with great effort, and they crashed into the ground. The craters were a combined effect of him deflecting them and she sending them at him. While his spells were harming her, none were direct hits. She was escaping with burns and singes. To him, she was doing far better than he had expected.
Syndra, using her orbs to grant herself vision of him while maintaining a safe distance, was forced to rethink her strategy again. She had intended to overwhelm him through force, but she had quickly found out that was impossible. When he was rooted to the ground, he was able to override her control and dispel her orbs, turning them into weapons of his own that he used to fire at her and explode; most of the fires were from that. When he was free to move, as she was finding out, he could simply move them aside with a grunt of great effort. There was no telling how difficult this was for him, but she would not stop to ask him. She did not know if he was really trying to kill her or simply testing her.
She had discovered a small enclosure with four ghost-like beings in it. After making quick work of them, she waited as she thought of a new tactic to try. It appeared her teacher would not allow it. As soon as she stopped to rest, a bolt of magic lightning burst through the trees. She let out a scream, feeling her insides cook as the hole in her chest was burned by the same bolt that had caused it.
When it stopped, she fell to her knees, blood running from her mouth to drip off her chin. When she looked down at her chest, she had to cough up blood. The wound, a large hole the size of her head, was there, strings of blood connecting the top half to the bottom and running down her front and back. What remained of her upper organs, held by fragile, breaking threads that then dropped into her lower half with wet, splosh sounds.
Slowly, she turned her head, tears of pain streaming out of her eyes, and peered through the hole in the stone she had taken cover behind. There, approaching her, was Xerath. As her eyes rolled back in her head, she heard him speak. "Round one is over. Come back when you-" He was saying, but she could no longer hear him. Losing strength, she leaned forward, gravity pulling her down. When she hit the ground, her head bounced once, then she closed her eyes.
She opened them again, after a moment, and saw Xerath. She felt his arms over her back. "W- why... did... you... kill me?" She asked, her voice echoing in his mind as her eyes began to watered.
He shook his head. "I did not. Wait and see." He said.
She did not understand, but could no longer hear anything. The last words she heard where his, the last sounds those of the fires burning, and the last thoughts of pain... and failure.
Seconds later, Syndra opened her eyes wide. Her breathing was rapid, and her senses made her head pound. Her vision was blurry, her own breathing made her ears hurt as she took in rapid breathes, and everything she touched made her body sting. She felt alive, yet in pain. It was as though life was pain, to live was to be in pain.
Thankfully, it did not last. After a few seconds, she no longer hurt. Quickly, her hands went to her chest, pulling her clothes back. There was no hole in her chest. Not even a scar. It was then she noticed, too, that her clothes were repaired. She looked straight ahead, then saw the blue color of Xerath's pointed head. He was coming toward her.
Frightened, she began to look for a place to hide or somewhere to flee to. Near her, she saw a little fellow, a yordle, with a large bag of weapons. "Please! You have to help me! He's going to kill me!" She stammered.
The yordle looked at her, then turned to the approaching Xerath before looking back at her. "Might I recommend a Null-Magic Mantle for 400 gold, or perhaps a Negatron Cloak for 740." He said.
"What!? No, no. He's going to kill me! What would clothes do to save me!?" She asked, panicking.
"They are not clothes, but items." She tensed, slowly turning her head to see Xerath there, floating before the two.
The yordle regarded him with a blank expression. "I'm sorry Sir, but you'll have to talk to the other merchant." It said.
The magus shook his head. "I am not here to purchase, nor should you be here. I thought the League had agreed to not interfere." He demanded, his tone with annoyance rather than anger.
The little fellow scratched his beard, thinking it over to himself. "I apologize, Sir. The League is a business partner of mine, not my boss. I am not a part of it, nor do I talk to my partners about my customers." It said.
Xerath looked at him for a several seconds, the yordle staring back with his blank expression and uninterested. Finally, he turned to Syndra, who was still shaking with fear. "This, is the Summoner's Rift. It is one of three Fields of Justice." He said, spreading his arms out to indicate the whole of the area. "We can not die here, the nexuses bind us here. We will feel death here, but it will not last." He explained.
Placing a hand on her chest, where she had been mortally wounded before, Syndra took a deep breath, the air filling her once destroyed lungs. She let it out slowly, then took another. "Is that why... you were fighting that way?" She asked.
He nodded. "Yes. I'm more of a hands-on teacher, and did not see the point in telling you of the undying effects here. Now that you know, you must realize why I find this place more favorable than anywhere else." He said, then pointed to her chest. "I could have just as easily hit your head or a limb, but I did not want you to die instantly nor linger for too long. Truth be told, I was worried I had missed." He said.
A nervous chuckle escaped her lips. By the way she saw it, he had hit her heart dead-center, tearing it apart where she thought she was safe. "Really? So I can kill you to make sure it does not effect just me?" She asked.
Xerath shrugged his shoulders. "If you must, then do so. After, we will continue the lesson." He said, placing his hands behind his back. His calm demeanor uncomfortable.
"I can kill you? And you will not try to stop me?" She questioned, making sure she had heard him right.
He nodded once more, then moved his left hand in front of his face, looking over his claws like they were finger nails. "Proceed when you are ready." He said.
Now in control of herself once more, Syndra discovered she did not have any of her orbs with her. In her emotional and frightened state, her power had been dormant. She took a breath, three orbs gathering around her, and looked at Xerath. He still stood silent and calm, looking over his claw, glancing at her to see what she was doing. He was growing impatient.
With anger and wrath flowing through her, she brought her arms back, arching herself backward. Then, with a cry of fury, she launched her three, dark orbs at him. The first hit the shoulder of his left arm, breaking it off his body. The second struck the rune at his chest, breaking it away from his body; it and the orb bouncing on the floor. The third and final orb struck his head, shattering the stone. Each blow brought a grunt from him, and the final one a shriek of utter pain that faded as he died. At the end of the shriek, his body collapsed into itself before exploding outward. Stone chips rained down as sparks of blue and white dissipated in the air.
Horrified, she wondered if she really had killed him. A glance took in the merchant yordle. She bend toward him. "Where is he?" She asked.
The yordle scratched his beard, thinking of something. "Your enemy? He's at his base. This is the blue base, and down the lane there leads to the purple base. Is this your first time here?" He asked. She nodded, gesturing him to go on. "I see. Well, just go down this middle lane here and you'll eventually get to him. The towers have been deactivated, so you don't have to worry about them attacking you." He said.
"Thank you." She said, not fully understanding but went along with it anyway. She did not get far when the yordle called her attention back to him. "What is it now?" Her tone made it obvious she was annoyed. She had more questions for her teacher.
The merchant was not phased by her attitude nor her display of power. "You have a little over 900 gold, might I recommend buying yourself Boots of Speed, an Amplifying Tome, and a few health potions before you leave?" He asked.
Gold? And so much of it? She patted her pockets, trying to find this gold. She could not. The yordle told her to return, so she did, and was shown a small coin purse. "The gold is collected over-time and whenever an enemy is slain, a common thing on the Fields of Justice. To keep things simple, and not weigh down the champions fighting, my brother and I keep tabs on the gold, with the help of a few others should we make a mistake. Since it is just the two of you, keeping track is simple. Here is your profit so far." He said, showing her a parchment with her name, a small portrait of her face, and other symbols. The purse of coins was clearly his.
Over the next minute, the merchant explained things to her. Gold collection while in the fields, killing sprees, what each enemy was worth and at what stages the bounties changed, the other symbols, and items. She had went with his recommendation of items after he finished, feeling her magic power increase and speed quicken. By this time, Xerath had returned.
"The League restrains us." She declared, anger heating her tone. Her fists were tight as she turned to him. She was not floating, yet she appeared far more threatening. "Did you truly mean what you said!? Or are you lying to me about more?" She yelled, her face red with rage.
Xerath, as calm as the colors that made up his body, spoke softly. "You would rather die as you just come into your power?" He asked. Almost instantly, she cooled, visibly and emotionally, turning her head away from him. When she did not speak, he continued. "If you wish to be a Champion of the League, you must accept these temporary limitations. Right now, many of them have been disabled, save for the merchants and death preventions." He began, glancing at the yordle.
"Custom matches, like this one, are of profit to us as well." He explained.
The magus looked back to Syndra. "Our powers are limited here, yes, but it is a mere fraction of restraint compared to that of the true limits." With a hand, he turned her face back to his. "What you see during this match, as it is called, is my power, restrained only by the stone of my former tomb. I could do far worse, but am unable to. You, on the other hand, are limited by your experience and lack of refined teaching. I do not know what you learned with your former master, but I intend to bring out your full potential." He said, releasing her. She did not look away, but her eyes had a hard edge to them. "Time is my ally. There are only two ways to be rid of me. The first is that you no longer desire my instructions." He said, holding up a finger.
He leaned close, his head inches from hers. "The second, you die." A second finger went up.
Syndra, the hair of her head floating with the energy being right in front of her, stared, wide-eyed, into his seemingly endless eyes. During that time, she could see the one thing she had always longed for most in the world: unbridled power.
He leaned away from her, her hair settling, then put his hands under her arms, hoisting her up. "Come. The lesson is not over." He said.
Syndra swallowed as she followed. "What is your passive?" She asked as she followed.
"Ascended Form. My magic power, ability power, toughens my body, increasing my resistance to physical harm." He said. His head turned a complete 180 degrees to look at her. "Why do you ask?"
She was not concerned with his action, already guessing he could do that. "The merchant told me about it. I do not know what my "passive" is." She answered. "Do the Summoners chose it when I become a champion?" She asked.
Xerath was silent a moment as they reached the area they had clashed. He turned and started toward the left, following a path through the trees and bushes. "I do not know how they chose that. Some, I have seen, are simple enough and make sense, while others do not. You may think of your own passive if you wish." He said.
She intended to.
When he stopped her, she looked up, seeing a large golem with a set of blue spheres rotating around it. Two lizard men, about a third its height, sat next to it. They seemed to be waiting for something. "This is the Ancient Golem. We are going to use it for practice." He said, then pointed at one of the lizard men. "Try to pick that one up, like you do with your orbs." He ordered.
She was confused, but did as asked. She had lifted small objects and creatures before, this was no different. The other lizard man and golem turned aggressive, moving toward her. Xerath, standing in front of her, threw out a small ball of magic, hitting the lizard. It took a step back, sparks flying off its body, before advancing again. It charged a spell, a fireball by the look of it, but Xerath was quicker, casting a spell that send a bolt of lightning-like magic at it. The bolt passed through the golem, knocking off a size-able piece of it, but not slowly it, and all but vaporized the lizard man.
"Wait for my signal, then hit it." He ordered, turning his attention to the golem. With three swift, blinding strikes, he attacked the stoned monster, clips, shards, and chunks falling off it with each strike from above. "Now!" He said.
Using the lizard man she had captured, Syndra threw it at the golem with such force that it shattered. She paused, feeling a sudden increase in her vitality as the blue spheres that were around it now circling her. "W- what is this? It feels amazing! I like I can take on all of Ionia and Noxus alone!" She said, a maniacal laugh escaping her.
She suddenly felt a hard hit across her head. Angry, she turned to see Xerath, shaking his head at her. "That is the blessing of the golem. It feels the one with it with energy and allows the constant replenishment of stamina and vitality, for a time. There are two golems in this field, one for each team." He explained. He tilted his head, looking over her shoulder. "Over there is where we entered, not from the summoning platforms as is normal." He added, turning her to show her.
Once he had, he put his hand over her shoulder, urging her to follow once more before he removed his hand. "Now that that is finished, and you know what to expect, do not hold back this time. Waiting for you to recover is not part of my les-" The sound of ground being destroyed interrupted him as he was forced to get away.
Syndra, her orbs back and she floating in the air, smiled as she flung another at him. "I'll keep that in mind!" She yelled as she attacked.
Xerath was forced to go on the defensive, the golem's blessing and her new knowledge proving to inspire her violent side. Not that he was complaining, he would be praising her for getting the upper hand so soon, but now he really had a fight on his hands. Both of them knew they could go all out, but she had the advantage of the blessing.
This was going to be fun, if not painful for both.
After an hour of unrelenting battle, both Xerath and Syndra, tired and panting, lay on the ground. Xerath's body, weakened in a more mystic sense of the word, shimmered and jolted, his form difficult to maintain. Syndra, her chest heaving with each breath, wore her now sweat and blood stricken clothes like a second skin.
"Well... that was a workout." She said in between tired breaths. Her head rolled over, seeing her teacher on the ground as well. "So, did I pass?" She asked, finding the strength to let out a soft laugh.
He rolled his head to face her, his voice, while not as tired of hers, did not have the same strength as it did before. "It was a lesson, but you did well. It's been a long, long time since I've been able to use that much force." He said.
She rolled her head back, looking up at the sky. "Do you truly want me as a student? I can't help but feel the difference between us is too great a gap." She sadly said.
"Do not question your abilities so soon. Within you, I see myself, only older." He said.
When she sat up, her arms feeling like lead, she gazed down at him. They were only a foot or two away, yet she stared as though from miles away. "Yourself only older?" She asked.
"When I was your age, I could never hope to achieve what you can do. Making a building float, and then leaving it and thinking nothing of it, would have been impossible. I'd say I was ten years older when I could do such a thing, nearly forty at the end of my mortal life." He said, a hint of sorrow in his crackling voice. Then, his body stopped shimmering, regaining its former form and his tone returning to normal. "I am beyond your power now, but, were we the same age and creatures, you would be my superior." He said.
Syndra smiled at that and looked away, a blush touching her cheeks and making them red. She had never before been complimented or praised for her abilities, only feared by those weaker than her, or threatened by those stronger. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "As to your becoming a champion, that will take time, dedication, and, worst of all, knowing when to hold back." He said.
She turned her head, looking at him. His other hand was over his face as he shook his head. "What do you mean?" She asked. "I will make the time, I desire nothing else but to become stronger, and I know how to control myself!" She exclaimed, the fight, if only a small portion, back in her tone.
"I did not say you lacked control, but you lack the knowledge of when and how much to hold back." He explained.
She stood, shrugging his hand from her shoulder, and glared. "What. Do. You. Mean." She said again, each word carrying a threat.
Xerath, appearing as ready as he once was to do battle, scanned her body with his eyes. Her legs were wobbly, her chest heaved, she was could not breath calmly, and she still had wounds over her body. She could barely stand, yet she was ready to fight again. "You have the will power, but not the knowledge. That is what I am saying. I will teach you to hold back, when to do so, and how much force to exert. The world may be against you, but surprise will keep you alive." He said.
He held out his hand, a force of magic pushing her and knocking her over. "You've felt what I am capable of, you've died at least five times during this lesson. What if we had not met until just now? Would you have guessed me so powerful?" He asked.
She was silent, thinking over his question. Finally, she let out an agitated sigh. "I see what you mean." She said. Her eyes turned hard once more. "I am eager to learn." She added.
For the first time since he was human, among those he called apprentices under his wing, he was proud to see someone grasp his lessons. "Your next lesson is tomorrow morning. Rest tonight, and be ready. It will not a test of strength, but endurance." He said, then held out a hand. She grasped it.
As he helped her up, Syndra could feel a surge of power from him into her body. It felt amazing! When she was on her feet again, she was able to float once more. "Thank you, Teacher." She said, a pleasant, truly happy, smile brightening her otherwise dark features.
"Teacher? I am going to need to get use to being called that." He said, smiling inwardly again.