11 September 21 CLE
Alowicious Chucat’s Study, Arcanum Majoris, Institute of War
The Noxian kicked fallen debris from his path and limped towards the figure sprawled on the ground before him. His frail appearance disguised a dangerous power, judging by the pain and fear of the man on the floor. Master Artificer Alowicious Chucat, Lead Archeologist of the Arcanum Majoris, was a respected figure both at the Institute of War and in the various techmaturgical circles of Valoran, but now his accomplishments were belied by his utter helplessness against the wrath of Swain, the Master Tactician. Trapped in his own study, the researcher struggled to drag himself out of Swain's reach.
Swain sneered beneath his mask. "Pathetic." He jabbed his fist in the air and massive claws exploded out of the marble floor, pinning the artificer in place. Chucat screamed as the talons rent his flesh, but the sound soon faded into strained wheezing. "After that impressive display in Kalamanda, I find your defensive efforts sorely lacking.”
Confused and in pain, Chucat managed to say, "Kal - Kalamanda? You’re here – because of the stasis spell? Swain, please, we had no choice -"
“No choice but to unleash the most powerful magic used on Valoran since Istvaan’s reign of terror?” Swain snorted in amusement, then began hobbling around his fallen prey. “Don’t delude yourself. The battle in Kalamanda was escalating, but there was nothing to warrant such a gross overreaction. Nothing, except, of course, that the League wanted to claim Kalamanda for its own.”
“What?” Chucat stared blankly. “The League would never do such a thing! You’re a madman if you think we wanted anything but peace!”
“Peace is just a convenient excuse for the League’s existence. It’s all about power. I’m surprised you don’t seem to realize it, Artificer! The Arcanum Majoris is the greatest arsenal ever created! The weapons and armor you’ve created are so powerful that even the best fighters alive rely on their strength! The resources at your disposal give you an unprecedented ability to recover and develop new equipment! Your collection supplied the nexus that froze all of Kalamanda in time!”
Swain reached his destination, Chucat’s haphazardly cluttered desk. He removed a Zaunite concussive charge from his robes and placed it beside the curiously-shaped locket at the center of the researcher’s instruments. “I almost regret that I have to kill you. Your weaponry will serve Noxus well, but I can’t have you survive to challenge me again. Goodbye, Master Artificer.”
The Noxian turned to leave, paying no heed as Chucat’s weak sputtering became panicked pleas for mercy. Eliminating the head of the Arcanum Majoris was only the beginning of his work tonight.
Hastening to distance himself from the impending explosion, Swain leaned more heavily on his cane as he walked. The corridor outside Chucat’s study was lit only dimly by glowlights, but Swain needed only enough light to see the way out. He quickly made his way back towards the Arcanum Majoris’s entrance chamber.
As he moved into the room, however, Swain heard several people running towards him. Seconds later, the tall doors across the chamber burst open, revealing several summoners, who stopped as they caught sight of Swain. One of them lowered her hood, revealing an elegant visage that was currently tightened in grim anticipation.
"Jericho." The summoner squared her shoulders and faced him; she and the two hooded summoners behind her now blocked Swain’s path.
“High Councilor Kolminye!” Swain spread his arms wide in greeting. “What a pleasant surpri-“
A powerful blast shook the building, knocking dust from the ceiling as the shockwave passed. The summoners stayed on their feet, but Swain, on his bad leg, stumbled and barely managed to catch himself with his cane. His raven flapped into the air before perching again on his shoulder.
With the floor once again stable, Swain slowly straightened up and observed Kolminye’s cold expression. “Well, if you were on your way to see Alowicious, I’m afraid you just missed him.”
“How dare –“ The High Councilor breathed. She shook her head and refocused herself. “Your games have gone too far, Swain.”
“On the contrary, my dear Vessaria! My games are just beginning!” Swain threw his head back and cackled. The laughter echoed off the walls, making a sound like a flock of birds. He stopped abruptly and fixed his eyes on Kolminye. “You should have expected this, after that stunt you pulled on my forces. You know I don’t stop for mere … hindrances.”
“And you should remember that you face the full might of the League,” Kolminye replied icily. She folded her arms. “Restrain him.”
Immediately, one summoner began murmuring an incantation, while the other motioned to direct a flow of magic at Swain’s feet, where a brilliant arcane design inscribed itself on the floor. Swain stiffened as he felt his strength ebb sharply, but realized the sensation was familiar to him. Countless summoners had targeted him with a weaker version of the spell on the Fields of Justice. Swain sneered, “Wrong move, summoner.”
Talons shot out of the ground and pierced the three summoners’ robes. The pain and surprise broke the spell cast on Swain, freeing him, but the summoners recovered quickly. Kolminye held out her hands as if offering a gift and the claws shattered like struck glass, leaving both sides on equal footing.
Before either Swain or the summoners had a chance to cast another enchantment, there was a blinding light and one of the summoners was suddenly obscured by a cloud of smoke. Taking advantage of the distraction, Swain swept his cane through the air, throwing a flaming orb at the other hooded summoner. His raven, cawing loudly, opened its beak and caught Swain’s target in a stream of magical energy.
Kolminye reacted instantly. In a single bound, she leaped across the room, turning to face Swain as she landed. She saw the summoner Swain had attacked keel over limply. The other, now ensnared by chains of light, twisted in a vain attempt at escape, but his assailant, revealed to be the beautiful LeBlanc, kept him tightly bound.
If the High Councilor felt compassion for her comrades, she did not waste any time indulging in it. Instead, she grandly lifted and thrust out her arms. Almost faster than the eye could see, both Swain and LeBlanc rose into the air and shot to the other side of the chamber. Swain gracelessly crashed into the wall and fell to the floor, having lost both his cane and his raven.
LeBlanc exploded into a plume of smoke.
Kolminye froze. She cautiously glanced around the room. Her two summoners lay motionless on the floor. Swain was barely stirring. The High Councilor returned her gaze to the smoke. It was clear she had expected to be at an advantage over both LeBlanc and Swain, but now she could not even see the Deceiver. Kolminye muttered a spell and peered into the cloud.
As soon as she did, LeBlanc charged out of the smoke, directly at Kolminye. Without hesitation, the summoner clenched her fist and engulfed her enemy in a pulsing ball of fire. The smoky darkness was suddenly replaced by Kolminye’s brilliant, destructive flames; Kolminye raised an arm to shield her eyes from the light. Much too soon, however, the ball imploded, mysteriously leaving no trace of her opponent. Kolminye realized LeBlanc was still biding her time. The High Councilor readied herself for the inevitable attack.
Swain hacked and coughed as he clumsily climbed to his feet. The summoner turned to guard herself against him.
The moment’s break in focus was all LeBlanc needed. An orb of light flew out of the smoke and struck Kolminye. As she stumbled backward, glowing chains followed the orb and latched on to her. Immobilized, Kolminye struggled in silence as LeBlanc finally emerged from her cover in the cloud, holding the ends of the chains in her hand. With a satisfied smirk, she flicked them, knocking the High Councilor to the ground. Kolminye did not get up.
Swain limped to his compatriot’s side. “As … unpredictable as ever, Deceiver. The High Councilor didn’t stand a chance.” His eyes flicked to the ethereal chains still linking LeBlanc to the fallen summoner. “I wonder, though, why you didn’t kill her?”
“You wanted me to do all the work, Jericho?” LeBlanc spread her arms in mock indignation. “This was your plan, Master Tactician. I felt you would want to finish this,” LeBlanc smiled invitingly and held the chains out to him.
“How … thoughtful of you, Matron LeBlanc,” Swain allowed LeBlanc to drop the chains into his hand: they vanished, link by link, as they fell. Without missing a beat, he lifted her hand in his and bent to kiss it. He turned and stepped towards the High Councilor.
“Oh, Vessaria, how the tables have turned … tell me, do you remember my League evaluation?”
Kolminye waited for the chains to release her; they did not disappear fast enough. “Your evaluation never finished, Swain. You were judged by each and every summoner to bring you to the Fields of Justice, and the Council has heard all of them. We are always watching. The League will not let you go unpunished after tonight.”
Swain responded to Kolminye’s warning with laughter. “High Councilor, you sound so sure of yourself! ‘Always watching,’ you say? Well, no one is watching us now … I’m afraid this is the end for you. The League is going to be a very different place without you, Vessaria! You couldn’t know what I meant … when I told you the League would help me …”
As Swain finished speaking, his figure began to darken and deform. Kolminye’s eyes widened in horror as she witnessed Swain’s transformation first hand. His mouth opened wide and twisted, elongating into a heavy, crushing beak. The raven on his shoulder took flight and was joined by countless others, becoming a bloodthirsty flock. Wings burst from his back and seemed to stretch from wall to wall, but despite it all, she couldn’t look away from Swain’s six, red, inhuman but acutely malicious eyes. They seemed to grow enormous, swallowing her, dragging her into the darkness…
Swain stared down at the mangled body at his feet. His raven preened its bloodied feathers and he felt his heart still pounding with exhilaration. Defenseless prey was such a rare treat.
“Satisfied yet, Swain?” He turned to see LeBlanc leaning on her staff, watching him amusedly.
Swain realized his shape was once again human. He found his voice. “…oh, don’t worry, Deciever. There’s a long way to go before that.”
LeBlanc’s amusement deepened. “Excellent. We had better get started then. What happens next, Master Tactician?”
Instead of replying, Swain looked back to the robed form before him and found Kolminye’s face, frozen in the agony of her death. He looked back at LeBlanc to once again see Kolminye’s face, this time alive and wearing an expression that suggested she had deigned to fulfill a childish request. “Well, I shouldn’t know what’s in store for the league, High Councilor. Enlighten me.”
The facsimile of Kolminye nodded once, then began to pace as she spoke. “These are troubled times, Master Tactician, and the League has a duty to enforce the will of Valoran. We must strengthen our numbers and prepare for the coming storm by changing how the League operates. Tired bureaucracy and rituals slow our upward climb - we must find new champions and add them to our ranks without delay. Rumor mills and false information must be rooted out – if we are to be ready, our minds must be clear. Our path will leave us stronger than any other power on Valoran!”
“And … under our control, with no one the wiser.” Swain chuckled. “If I hadn’t just killed her, I would swear you were her.” He adopted a more serious demeanor. “Carry on, Vessaria. If Mandrake and Relivash have any objections, they won’t last long.”
LeBlanc came close and, raising Kolminye’s hand, stroked Swain’s cheek. “Soon, the Black Rose shall bloom again. Thank you, Swain.” She raised her hood and hurried out of the Arcanum Majoris.
Swain watched her go, then turned back to look at the crumpled forms of the summoners. His gaze lingered on Kolminye’s embroidered robes, now stained a deep, Noxus red.
"Another opponent...another disappointment."