The earliest known story of Kled traces back to the empire’s infancy and the Battle of Drugne. In the dusty hills of those badlands, the First Legion was on the run from a barbarian horde. Having lost the two previous battles, the men’s morale was low, the army had been forced to abandon its supply train in the rout, and they were a week’s march from the nearest outpost.
In command of the Legion was a gaggle of wealthy nobles bedecked in spotless golden armor. They were more concerned with their appearances and the intrigues of their class than the men they were commanding. Worse, these commanders—though well versed in assassination and tournament fighting—had proven hopeless on the field. With the remains of the army surrounded by enemy forces, the nobles ordered the Legion into a defensive circle in hopes of negotiating ransoms for themselves.
Then, as the morning sun rose, the mysterious figure of Kled appeared on the hilltop overlooking the battlefield. He rode Skaarl, an immortal desert drakalops. The mount stood on only two legs; its ear-like forelimbs fanned from the side of its head, hanging down apologetically, like a butler who had accidently dipped his hands in soup.
The lone rider stood on his steed’s saddle. His weapon was rusted, his armor was worn, and his clothes were tattered— but a relentless anger burned from his one good eye.
“I’ll give you one chance to get off my land!” Kled announced to the barbarian horde, but the yordle didn’t wait for their answer. He spurred his steed and angrily screamed his charge.
Desperate, starving, and furious with the nobles, the Legion’s anger ignited like blasting powder at the yordle’s insane act of bravado. The enlisted men rushed after Kled and Skaarl as they tore into the center of the enemy formation.
What followed was the bloodiest melee the Legion had ever fought. The initial success of its surprise attack was crushed when the barbarians’ reserve forces smashed into the Legion’s flanks. With the battle turning against the Noxians and the enemy attacking from every side, Skaarl panicked, threw Kled, and abandoned the fight. Like the cowardly lizard creature, the Noxian soldiers faltered. But at their center, Kled fought on, chopping down foes, kicking out teeth, and biting faces.
Enemy bodies piled around Kled, and his clothes were soaked with blood. Despite the casualties he inflicted with every swing of his long axe, he was still forced back by the barbarians’ relentless tide. He screamed louder challenges and cruder insults. Clearly, the yordle was willing to die before ever backing down.
Courage and cowardice are as infectious as the plague, however, and seeing Kled’s determination, the legionnaires pressed on. Even Skaarl stopped running and turned to watch the Legion’s last stand.
Then, as the Noxian line was breaking and the enemy’s superior numbers pulled Kled to the ground, the drakalops triumphantly returned and crashed into the barbarians’ rear. Snarling and clawing, it dove into the churning melee until it freed its master. With his mount again beneath him, the reinvigorated Kled became a whirlwind of death, and it was the barbarians who broke and ran.
Though precious few of the Noxian soldiers survived, the battle was won. The tribes of Drugne were defeated, and their lands were added to the empire. The bodies of the nobles, and their fine golden armor, were never found.
In time, most of the empire’s other legions acquired similar stories of Kled, proving no defeat is certain in the face of insane courage. It is said he rides wherever the legions travel, claiming the spoils of war and land for himself and Skaarl.
Most Noxians find the truth of these tall tales questionable at best. But in the legions’ wake, signs can always be found proclaiming each new territory “Property of Kled.”
The Northern Steppes ain’t the place for fancy undies and golden piss pots. It’s tough land. Ain’t nothing go here but barbarian raiders, poison grass, and harsh winds. To survive, you gotta eat rocks and crap lava. And I’m the toughest, meanest, killingest bastard in these parts. So I figure that makes these plains mine.
“But how did I end up here? And why am I alone with yer dumb yella hide?” I say out loud, starting it off again.
Skaarl snorts her response from the rock she’s sunning herself on. Her scales is dark metal with hints of gold. Ain’t nothing can break that drakalops’s skin. I’ve seen a steel sword shatter against her leg.
Don’t make her farts smell any better though.
“I’m callin’ you a damn coward. You got somethin’ to say about that?”
“Greefrglarg,” it says as it looks up and yawns.
“It was a hooked grouse! No bigger than my hand. And you run… Darn dumb, stupid animal!”
“Greef…rglarg?” Skaarl asks as it swats the flies away from its half-opened eyes.
“Oh, good retort! Yeah, real funny, right? Ha ha ha! I’m damn tired of yer heretical pontifications. I should leave ya here to die. That’s what I should do. You’d die o’ loneliness. Hell, you wouldn’t last a day without me.”
Skaarl lays its head back down on the rock.
There ain’t no use communicating with her. I should forgive her—but then, and no doubt to mock me, her sphincter splutters rhythmically as she breaks wind. The smell hits me like a frying pan.
“That’s it, you bastard!” I throw my stinking hat onto the ground and march away from the campsite, swearing I’ll never set eyes on that foul-mouthed drakalops again. ’Course, it was my good hat, so I have to trot back and snatch it off the ground.
“Yeah, keep sleeping, ya lazy flaprat,” I say as I walk away. “I’ll do the patrol!”
Being ten moons from any farmstead don’t preclude doing the patrol. It’s my land. And I aim to keep it that way. With or without that treason-ish lizard’s help.
The sun’s dragging its way down to the horizon by the time I reach the hills. This time of day, the light plays tricks on you. I meet a snake who wants to discuss pie crusts. Except it ain’t a snake, it’s the shadow of a rock.
Damn shame. I have some durn specific notions about pie crusts. At least when I remember what they are again. I ain’t had a proper conversation about the subject in years.
I’m about to take a swig of my mushroom juice and explain my views to the snake, when I hear them.
Drake hounds howling and braying. It’s the sounds those beasts make when they is herding elmarks. And if there’s elmarks, then there is humans. And those humans is trespassers.
I scramble up a nearby boulder and check north first.
The rolling hills of my grasslands is empty, save for the iron buttes scattered across the horizon. The braying sounds might be the mushroom juice playing tricks on my head… But then I turn south.
They is about a half day’s walk from this hill. Three hundred elmarks grazing. Grazing on my land.
The drake hounds circle around the herd, but there’s no horses. A few humans walk around them on foot. Humans don’t like walking. So it don’t take a genius to figure they must be part of some larger convoy then. ’Course, I am a genius. So that was easy to figure.
My blood begins to boil. That means more damn trespassers, disturbing my peace. Here, when I was about to have a lovely conversation about pie crusts with that snake.
I take another sip of mush-juice and head back to the campsite.
“Get up, lizard!” I say as I grab my saddle.
It raises its head, grunts a response, and returns to lying in the cool grass.
“Get up! Get up! GIT UP!” I yell. “There’s trespassers, invading the peaceful serenity of our environs.”
It looks at me blankly. I forget sometimes she don’t understand me when I’m speaking.
I buckle the saddle onto its back. “There’s humans on our land!”
It stands, and its ears perk up nervously. Humans. That word it knows. I jump into the saddle.
“Let’s get those humans!” I roar, indicating our southward destination. But the damn beast immediately starts going north.
“No, No, NO! They’s that way! That way!” I say, using my reins to pull the cowardly beast back in the right direction.
“Greefrglaaarg!” the drakalops cries as it kicks off. In an instant, she’s running. The insane speed of it makes my eyes close. Scrub grass whips painfully against my legs. A cloud of dust billows behind us. What’d take me half a day of walking is past before I can get my hat tied down.
“Greefrglorg!” the drakalops screeches.
“Now, don’t be like that! Weren’t you saying you wanted company last night?”
The sun is just starting to dip below the horizon when we reach the herd. I slow Skaarl to a trot as we approach the humans’ campsite. They’d already started a fire and have a stew going.
“Hold, stranger. Show your hands before you approach,” a human in a red hat says. Their leader, I figure.
I slowly take my hands off the reins. But instead of putting them up, I pull my long axe from its saddle loop.
“I don’t think you understand me, old timer,” the human in the red hat says again. His fellows ready weapons: swords, lassos, and a dozen repeater crossbows.
“Greefrglooorg,” Skaarl growls, ready to leave already.
“I got it under control,” I tell my lizard, before turning my attention back to the humans. “I ain’t impressed with your fancy, city-folk weapons. Now I’m giving you one warning. Get off my land. Or else.”
“Or else what?” a younger human asks.
“You boys best know who you’re dealing with,” I say. “This is Skaarl. She’s a drakalops. And I’m Kled, Lord Major Admiral of the Second Legion’s forward artillery—cavalry multiplication.”
Several of the humans start snickering. I’ll learn them soon enough—once I’m done talking.
“And what makes you think this is your land?” asks the human in the red hat, smirking.
“It’s mine. I took it from them barbarians.”
“It’s property of Lord Vakhul. He was granted it by the High Command. It’s his by rightful dispensation.”
“Well, High Command! Why didn’t you say so?!” I say before spitting on the ground. “The only law a true Noxian respects is strength. He can have it. If he can take it from me.”
“You and your pony best be moving on, while you still can.”
I forget sometimes humans don’t see us like we see them. It’s the last straw though.
“CHARGE!!!!” I scream, and snap the reins. The drakalops kicks off, and we rush them. I meant to make a clever retort first, but I got ahead of myself.
The humans let loose their first volley, but Skaarl raises her ears. Like giant bronze fans, they shield us as the crossbow bolts ricochet off her impenetrable flesh.
She roars happily as we dive through their camp at the leader in the red hat. Swords clang against Skaarl’s hide, while my axe swings. I turn two of them humans into confetti. The bastard in the red hat’s quick. He ducks under my blade as we pass by. Another volley of crossbow bolts hits us.
Skaarl screams in fear. Damn thing’s unkillable and immortal, but easily spooked. Problem with magical beasties, they don’t make no sense.
I yank the reins, and we ride back into the middle of the humans. I easily kill the rest of his men, but the red-hat bastard’s a tough one. My blade slams into him—but the blow clangs dully against his heavy breast plate. That should give him something to think about, anyway.
That’s when the ballista fires. The bolt is longer than a wagon. It smashes into the drakalops, knocking my long axe from my hand, and sends us rolling to the ground. Skaarl ain’t hurt. But she shakes me off the saddle and runs for the hills.
“You ungrateful bastard! We had the frassa-gimps in the razabutts!” I mean to scream more insults, but my words start tripping over themselves.
I roll to my feet. Dust and grass cover my face. I throw my hat toward the cowardly lizard’s path, then turn back to kill the man in the red hat.
But behind him, on the hill line, is another hundred of them humans. Iron warriors, bloodrunners, and a wagon-mounted ballista. Red-hatted blurf-herder brought most of a legion with him.
“You ain’t nothing but a durn sneaky-sneak!” I scream.
“You don’t look like much,” he says, “but I guess you’re the one who’s been giving Lord Vakhul’s ranchers so much trouble.”
“Vakhul ain’t no real Noxian. Your lordship can kiss my lizard’s puckered mudflap!”
“Maybe I’ll let you end your days in Lord Vakhul’s fighting pits. If you can learn to keep your mouth shut.”
“I’m gonna rip your lips off and use them to wipe my butt!” I roar.
I guess he don’t like that, ’cause him and his hundred friends start running at me, weapons drawn. I could run. But I don’t. They’ll pay dearly to kill me.
Red Hat’s fast. He’s nearly on me before I can recover my weapon from the ground. His blade is high. He’s got the killing stroke. But I’ve got my hidden scattergun.
The blast sends him to the ground. It knocks me back, too. I tumble end over end. The single shot buys me some time. But not much.
The bloodrunners are closing fast. Their hooked blades is ready. I’m gonna die in this turd-stain. Well, if it’s my last stand, might as well make it a good one.
I dust myself off as the first line of bloodrunners attacks. I’m carving those dark magical bastards apart, but they’re cutting me to ribbons. I’m beginning to tire from the effort and loss of blood.
Then the iron warriors scream their battle cries, as they charge in their thick black armor. They’ve split into two groups, doing one of those “pinching” maneuvers. Plan on using those two walls of metal to crush me flatter than a Noxian coin.
Any hope I got of surviving this, it’s gone…
And that’s when I see her. The most loyal, trustworthy, honorable friend an undeserving bastard like me could ever have.
Riding like hell toward me. Faster than I’ve ever seen her run. A rooster tail of dust is shooting up behind her. The damn lizard even picks up my hat on her way to me. I run to her just as those black-clad warriors are about to crush me.
I leap into the saddle, and we circle around the iron warriors. There’ll be time to kill them after we get rid of that ballista.
“It’s been a while since we took on a whole army together,” I say.
“Greefrglarg,” Skaarl screeches happily.
“Back at you, buddy,” I say with a smile wider than a croxagor’s.
’Cause there ain’t nothing I love more than this dang lizard.