Greetings once again! I am Shawn “Babagahnoosh” Carnes – the Lead Creative Designer here at Riot Games. We are please to share with you another of our story introductions for the champions of the League, now known as “Champion Judgments”. Because of your feedback and suggestions, we have decided to change the name of these from Evaluations to Judgments. The previous title confused some folks who were looking for more game play related information. We think the new name will better address the needs of game enthusiasts, lore enthusiasts, and every one in between. I just wanted to thank you again for your help and support as Season One progresses.
This time around, we take a look at the Judgment of Vladimir, the Crimson Reaper. We hope you enjoy it!
Date: 27 July, 20 CLE
Vladimir moves with purpose, his long hair and robes flowing dramatically behind him as his deliberate strides carry him swiftly towards his goal. The heels of his polished boots ring out against the marble halls of the Institute of War, an unwelcome clamor in the otherwise oppressive silence. He spies his destination ahead, a great stone doorway.
The regal demeanor of our guest is a hoax; a trap for those foolish enough not to look beyond the surface. The perfectly groomed hair, the extravagant attire, the manicured fingernails… these marks of nobility are false. The truly perceptive will not be deceived by this charade. From his cruel, angular features, to the vicious, yet regal, jewelry that adorns his fingertips, there is no doubt: this is a predator.
Vladimir pauses for a moment as he arrives, relishing the moment. He admires the craftsmanship with fickle, covetous eyes. A pair of panthers stand sentry in the relief of the marble archway, their lithe forms a tribute to their artisan's talent. An inscription above announces his destination: "The truest opponent lies within." He reaches out to caress the polished stone. The doors part at his touch, drifting silently open. Beyond them lay blackness. Vladimir licks his thin lips, and darts inside.
Vladimir stood in the darkness of the Reflecting Chamber. For a moment there was only the silence and the expectant beating of his heart. Then there was a whisper.
"Vladimir, my child," called a voice from the black. He recognized it instantly, and his hair stood on end. Out of the darkness strode another figure, of similar stature but clothed in the simpler robes of a monk. His ashen hair was rivaled only by the sickly pallor of his skin. His eyes were pure crimson.
"Dmitri?" Vladimir inquired, incredulous, "but, master, you are gone. I killed you."
The figure threw back his head, howling with laughter. "I cannot be gone, Vladimir. I am a part of you." As if in response, the monk's body dissolved into a fine red mist. The metallic smell of blood filled the air. Vladimir closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the warm vapor bathing him in its welcome embrace.
The sound of sharp, labored breaths woke him from his reverie. His eyes snapped open, revealing a clearing in a serene forest. His heart raced in an excited rhythm. At his feet lay two mangled forms - one still, the other gasping - both drenched in blood. Vladimir examined himself in wonder. He was a boy no older than fifteen. In his right hand he clutched a hunting knife in a death grip - so hard, in fact, that the handle had cut him. His fine clothes were sullied everywhere with scarlet. He knew this moment. These were his playmates. These were his first.
The maimed figure crawled towards him, looking up with a mixture of sadness and bewilderment. The expression turned to hatred. A hand shot forward, gripping his boot. Vladimir recoiled, breaking free and stumbling backwards away from the dying child. The boy opened his mouth as if to scream, but no words came out. Instead, a torrent of blood spilled forth from his lips into the dirt. He extended an accusing finger at his murderer. Vladimir dropped his knife, and the darkness took him.
A moment later he was standing at the foot of a mountain trail in the shadow of a great structure. Before him, propped on a spike, lay a blanched corpse. Beneath that lay a font of blood, hewn into the rocks by primitive tools. He looked up, raising a hand to shield his wind-burned face. The trail before him contained perhaps a dozen such specimens, set at even intervals along the path. He felt the now familiar quickening of his pulse. The thrill overwhelming any sense of dread, he ascended.
Wandering through the halls of this ancient structure, the trail of drained bodies guiding his path, Vladimir's excitement grew. He came at last to a great hall. All about him hung the deceased, their lifeblood settling in pools below. At the front of the grisly scene stood a robed monk, white hair slicked back out of his face. His blood-red eyes shone menacingly on his pale, implacable face as he beckoned to the enraptured traveler.
Vladimir approached, unblinking; entranced by the spectacle, eyes locked on the man before him. The monk stared back curiously. "Have you no fear, boy?" he asked, interested. Vladimir shook his head wordlessly, never breaking his gaze.
"I see what you are," the monk continued, "You are a harbinger, my child. A Crimson Reaper, come to collect." He smiled grimly, a peal of laughter following. "What is your name, young one?"
"I am called Vladimir," stammered the bewildered youth.
"You are now my charge, Vladimir," replied the aging figure, smiling. "Do not disappoint me."
Vladimir stared deeply into his mentor's eyes. The sight made his veins run ice. He had killed this man. He had taken his blood. And Dmitri had asked him to do it; had threatened him with death if he refused. The room around him went dark once more, leaving him alone again with the phantom of his master. The monk folded his arms across his chest. "Why do you want to join the League, Vladimir?" asked Dmitri expectantly.
"I wish to bring honor to my noble house and to hone my craft," Vladimir answered immediately.
The apparition before cracked a bemused smiled. "Why do you want to join the League, Vladimir?" it repeated.
"To fight for the glory of Noxus, my homeland," Vladimir replied, hesitant.
Dimitri's amusement vanished. He looked displeased. "Why do you want to join the League, Vladimir?" he echoed.
Vladimir's face darkened. He answered, slowly this time, "I must kill."
The old monk nodded. "How does it feel, exposing your mind?" he asked.
Vladimir bared his teeth. "Liberating, really," came his retort. As if in response, the door behind flew open, bathing him in light. He was alone.