Unofficial League of Legends Judgment for Karthus, the Deathsinger by EdwinMols
Date: December 20, 20 CLE
A dank, moldy smell trails behind the figure climbing the steps at the Institute of War. The forest, illuminated by clusters of phosphorescent fungi clinging to the bark of ancient trees, grows silent as he approaches the great double doors that mark the beginning of every champion’s trial. A bubble of darkness moves with him, warping the shadows around his profile - a blemish on the otherwise pristine setting.
A cloud of fireflies dances between the visages of two solemn panthers that stand in symmetrical watch over the marble foyer. Karthus, obscured and preceded by his own murky aura, seems to pour over the lip of the last stair onto the landing, bringing with him the stale stench that now permeates the area below and withers the plants at the edge of the staircase. The fireflies, disturbed by his presence, dart away in little streaks of color into the twilight. One insect moves too slow, however, and passes close to the shrouded figure in its escape. The moment it flutters into the darkness its wings cease to beat, its body wilting as it begins to fall to the ground.
At this, Karthus stops, the sockets of his skeletal countenance glowing a sickly yellow, his grimy teeth bared in a fixed grin. He holds out his hand before him, bony fingers curled upwards, his black cloak hanging in limp folds from his arm. A spot of orange light sparks into existence in the air above his palm and beneath the lifeless firefly. The insect falls slowly into the hovering orange speck, and with a tiny flash, it is disintegrated into a horde of dust motes that drift into Karthus’s hand. His skeletal fingers close over the dust and another orange flash shines from the cracks in his clutched fist. As his fingers reopen, a black firefly springs forth clumsily into the air and flies away, its tail glowing a dark purple.
Karthus resumes gliding towards the double doors, the jagged edges of his billowing cloak curling up insolently from the burnished floor. He observes the words etched into stone above the doorway.
The truest opponent lies within.
For a moment, Karthus hesitates, his face frozen in its ever-present grin. Then, with a creak, his jawbone opens and he bursts into a cackling laughter that echoes off of the stone doors. Still laughing, he raises each arm to the side, staff in one hand, spellbook in the other, and the doors of the Institute of War burst open, exposing the darkness within. As he glides through the doorway, the shadows of his aura merge with those beyond, and his ominous voice fills the space as his laughter fades.
“Only too true.”
Stagnant water rose past the rim of Karthus’s boots and soaked his thin cloth britches as he stepped forward into the heart of the Howling Marsh. The sun overhead did little to pierce the magical darkness that held the mire in a constant gloom, and the tops of the barren, twisted trees that rose around him were shrouded in darkness. The silence was broken only by the occasional squawking of a single crow, perched on the bough of a nearby tree, and the sloshing of Karthus’ boots as he trudged through the swamp.
A fleshy, human façade had replaced Karthus’s skeleton form – a recreation of the Karthus from before his death. Standing six feet tall with a crop of short, combed blond hair and a spellbook bound with a leather strap in his left hand, he was the perfect image of a scholarly mage. Months of travel had left numerous stains on his expensive garb, and the pack he wore on his back was growing light with dwindling supplies.
But something was wrong. This memory of Karthus, the day of his encounter with the depraved magic of the Howling Marsh, rang true in all but one respect. Karthus’s eyes, sunken in a face fatigued from his journey, still glowed a bright, sickly yellow.
The mage should be shivering from the cold, should be wearily moving through the fetid waters of the swamp, yet instead he was striding confidently forward, seemingly without discomfort. As he stepped out of the water onto spongy ground, the immense hollow tree that marked the center of the mire emerged out of the murky dark before him. A wicked smile split Karthus’ face.
A howling wind suddenly sprang forth from the mouth of the hollow tree, blowing his hood back and whipping his hair into a flurry. Karthus burst into laughter, his bright voice ringing with deep, sinister undertones. A pile of mossy bones nearby assembled into the skeleton of a wolf, gleaming with purple necrotic energy, and leaped at his throat with teeth bared. With an absent gesture of Karthus’s hand, an orange dome of energy formed beneath the wolf and bloomed upwards, exploding in a burst that tore the bones of the undead creature into pieces.
The mage reached the mouth of the tree, still cackling madly, and stepped inside, the wind now swirling about the inside of the column like a tornado. The roots wound down into the ground in a spiraling, natural staircase, but Karthus stepped out into the middle of the tree and floated down into the darkness, his cloak flapping about wildly.
The roots of the tree eventually opened up into the center of a massive cavern several hundred meters in diameter. The rock walls of the cavern pulsated with dark energy, beating like a heart in tandem with rings of purple light that ran up the cavern walls from a pool at its base. Karthus sank down to the pool, the bellowing echoes of his laughter mixing together into a hideous chorus.
He landed before the pool, a well of swirling purple energy that churned with agitation at his approach. Abruptly, the wind and rings of color ceased, and Karthus finally ceased laughing, his mouth snapping shut into a grin. He leaned forward, placing his right hand on the rim of the well, and peered into the roiling energy. Slowly, the energy began to subside and calm, until its surface was still enough to produce a wavering reflection of his Karthus’ face.
The reflection was not grinning, however, nor were its eyes glowing yellow. Instead, it was an image of an uncorrupted Karthus, blond brow furrowed and mouth turned down in a scowl. The reflection’s mouth opened, still frowning, and spoke in a voice with a single, clear tone.
“Why do you want to join the League, Karthus?”
The mage, instead of answering, began singing a wordless dirge, his white teeth gleaming in a wicked smile.
The reflection’s scowl deepened, and it spoke again, the pool of energy around it beginning to roil once more.
“Why do you want to join the League, Karthus?”
Karthus continued to sing his dirge, even beating his right hand on the stone rim of the well in rhythm with the song.
The reflection’s eyes grew wide with anger, and the pool of energy suddenly exploded forth.
“Enough of this!” shouted a new voice, neither that of Karthus’s reflection or of the corrupted mage, “foul spirit, be silenced!”
The illusion ended abruptly, leaving Karthus in the dimly lit hall of the Institute of War. This Karthus, however, was completely human, his eyes red and swollen. His knees shook uncontrollably, and he crumpled to the ground a moment later, head hanging wearily as he supported himself on two spindly arms.
Before him stood The Adjudicator, who spoke in a soft voice.
“Karthus…my dear friend…what has become of you?”
The ruined mage replied in a raw, feeble voice, avoiding his friend’s gaze.
“That’s an understatement.”
Karthus winced. “It promised me power, more power than I could imagine. And for a time, it delivered on that promise – I thought I was a god I had so much power. And when we conquered death, together, I started to lose myself. I let my guard down.”
The Adjudicator stood silent.
“I don’t remember exactly when it started, but it began taking over.” Karthus rose painstakingly to his feet. “Promises turned sour – it became clear that the power it granted was only ever borrowed. I became a prisoner in my own mind.”
Their eyes met – Karthus’s were pleading. “Now I must bargain with it for control. Even convincing it to come this far, to come to you, took all the power I had.” He swallowed. “Please, if there is anything you can do…”
“I can only hold it at bay for a short time – however, if you serve in the League, I can work with you on a more…permanent solution. I cannot, of course, promise anything. However, you must promise me something.”
Karthus shifted uncomfortably. Promises. “Yes?”
“You must keep it from practicing necromancy while in the League.”
Karthus hesitated, then nodded, wringing his hands.
“Good. If you cannot do so, I will be forced to make a decision that I do not want to make.”
The Adjudicator released a spell, and with a brilliant orange flash, Karthus reverted back to his skeletal state.
The Adjudicator’s nose wrinkled at the scent of decay. “I suppose I must observe formalities. How does it feel, Karthus, the Deathsinger, exposing –“
“…my mind?” finished Karthus sardonically. The lich leaned forward, until his glowing yellow eyes were inches from The Adjudicator’s face.
His voice whispered out from between his filthy teeth.
“Ironic,” he said, and then burst out cackling once more.