A/N: Ok ummm, confession time. First, I didn't really intended this to be this complex story... well it will eventually will become one but point is that it was supposed to be one shot with completely different theme (a story I will write separately). However, in an attempt to get a good starting point it somehow completely moved to this. Story will not be too long in terms of number of chapters but I am honestly not good with short stories because I like to do a lot of details a lot of different events that my characters usually go through. If you do not believe me check my other stories (yes I know, shameless advertising...) but it takes me a lot of time to build up to something which I do consider a sort of a flaw. Second thing is what caused me to sigh way too many times. Research. League of Legends lore is great but with certain holesand all of that at one point became obsolete so bear this in mind... the place where this story is set uses old lore which means old Valoran map and even that gave me a bit of a headache because I had to justify (in my own mind) how jungle is right next to desert. Then I just rolled with simple explanation... Magic! Because it is magic! Still for the sake of the story I had to also do a lot of climate research on both rain-forests and deserts along with all possible side-research that is important for their ummm... adventure. Yeah its gonna be an adventure... WITH A TWIST! Because it wouldn't be drama if there wasn't a twist. Anyway you've been listening me rant long enough, enjoy the next chapter and let me know what you think.
"What do you mean you do not know?!"
"Calm yourself young prince." One of councilor spoke, raising his hand half way up.
"I cannot calm myself when you assured me no Demacian champion would die!" Jarvan shouted. He was furious, anger pointed toward three councilors of Equity that stood at the center of their chamber. Before them stood champions of Demacia and Noxus.
"Would you have preferred for this to be a deathmatch?" second Councilor asked, voice just as calm as first one.
"At least in deathmatch I know what is placed on the table! I would know that our champion sacrificed himself for the sake of victory, not gone missing without any trace!" Jarvan continued his rant. His team, Shyvana in particular, worried that in his state of affect he would lash out and attack Councilors… an action certain to fail and lead to his imminent death. Fortunately for all of them, Jarvan, even in state of unrivaled fury, knew well enough how to restrain himself.
"Are you placing the blame on us, young prince?" third Councilor spoke.
"Oh no…" Jarvan said in much calmer voice "I know exactly who is responsible for this." His hand rose and index finger extended, pointing to his right side at Swain. High General raised his eyebrow at this notion but said nothing, even though other Noxians were eager to be unleashed at Jarvan because of this accusation. "What I want to know is why Council allowed this to happen?!"
"I should feel honored." Swain said with chuckle in voice "I would like to take the credit for what occurred… however even I have some degree of decency to not take credit for what I haven't involved myself in. Do not forget that I lost one of my assassins."
"A trade we all know you are eager to make any day!" Jarvan turned himself completely, facing Swain. He would've probably aim his lance at General if it wasn't already taken by summoners before they entered chamber, along with weapons of other champions "A Noxian bitch for the Might of Demacia!"
"Watch your tongue you poor excuse for a prince!" Swain retorted angrily "I lost not just any assassin, but the assassin. If this was to be my plan I would've done much better job in ensuring you are there to be destroyed instead of just one captain! This trade, as you put it, caused more damage to Noxus than it did to Demacia!"
Jarvan snarled, clenching his fists hard. He was like a rabid dog on a leash, ready to snap, ready to bite at the slightest of twitch. Two pair of hands ensured he remains in his place, one belonging to his most trusted guard, Shyvana, other to the mighty Wing of Demacia.
"Besides." Swain continued, calming himself down as his amusement was being fed by sight of Jarvan's agitation more than he should have "Even if I was to devise such elaborate and rather cunning plan, you forget one little detail."
"And what detail would that be?"
"I do not have access to nexus crystals. Neither does any Noxian. If I recall, that privilege is exclusive only to summoners and their most trusted guards who passed extreme tests of fortitude and mental strength… There is no way any of my spies would succeed in infiltrating Council nor would that be my wish."
"Lies!" Jarvan barked "Every Valoran citizen knows about Noxus and its plans to conquer entire continent! Every child knows that you wish to become tyrant of entire Valoran!"
"That is correct." Swain added rather calmly as if it is something completely usual "Everyone knows I wish for Noxus to spread across this continent and unify it as one, single nation where strength is valued above petty ethics that you and entire Demacia impose! But… I want to rule the world, not ruins and dust… to provoke Demacia in such way is to lead to another Rune War, one that is surely to be greater than any before and we can all see our beloved lands in ruins. None will be spared. Not Noxus, nor Demacia or Freljord and even Island of Ionia is sure to follow the example of great cataclysm… Why would I destroy world and kill everyone in it? To rule the insects and boulders that still remain?"
"Enough!" One of councilors interjected rising right hand up. In that very instant both leaders looked his way "The hostility of your two nations is legendary and we are aware of consequences that might emerge. General Swain is, however, correct. They had no access to nexus crystals and even if they did, anyone who would approach it before it is placed upon Field of Justice… would be incinerated… burnt and dispersed into the wind by the sheer power of it."
"The very fact that this occurred is troubling us as well." Second councilor continued "Because of that, you have to be patient until we do full investigation on what caused this instability of nexus."
"And what of my champion?" Jarvan asked, now calmer on the outside but in him still burned the fiery rage that just waited to burst.
"Once we determine what caused this, we will know what happened to Might of Demacia and Sinister Blade." Third councilor answered "Until then, all League matches are placed on hold until further notice. Demacia and Noxus will have to come to an agreement and not initiate any kind of physical confrontations outside of the Field of Justice."
"I have said what I had to say." Swain said as he looked at Council "Noxus will honor this decision and refrain from doing any kind of military or political actions that might cause unintended results. That being said, we shall retaliate in full force if provoked beyond reasonable limit."
"Prince Jarvan?" First Councilor looked at him, waiting to hear his response.
"Demacia… shall obey decision of the Council…" Prince said after long pause. The words he said left a bitter taste in his mouth. He bowed his head to show his, now rapidly declining, respect toward Council of Equity before Demacian team left the chambers in quick pace.
Councilors were finally alone in the chambers.
"This shouldn't have occurred." First one said.
"The summoner did warn us of the magical anomaly in one of the nexus crystal." Second one added "We can consider this a thing of luck. None other than two champions perished."
"But what if nations provoke another war?" Third one asked.
"Then we shall make sure it doesn't come to that." First one said again and raised his right hand. In his palm blue magical ball appeared and began pulsing few times before doors of the chambers opened and single man, dressed in gray robes appeared, bowing before High Council "Summoner's Rift is to be restored and all shards of the nexus crystal collected. Gather all the guards and summoners that you require, search field ten times if needed, no crystal must be left unpicked."
As soon as Demacian team have left the doors they moved past the crowd that separated itself, allowing them to pass through. People were cheering, whistling, boasting about Demacian victory.
"Xin Zhao!" Jarvan shouted and beckoned with hand. Within several seconds, champion ran over to him and bowed head.
"How much did everyone see?" Jarvan asked as he stopped walking, turning to face steward.
"Last thing we all saw was Garen piercing nexus. Nothing more than that."
"Good, if anyone asks captain Garen has gone to the southern borders of Demacia as per my personal orders to aid up with one of the vanguard groups. Make sure my father hears just that, nothing more."
Xin looked at Jarvan, a bit confused by these words but nodded. It didn't take long for him to realize things went wrong at some point but he understood the importance of the peace. Jarvan offered a smile, waving at other spectators that gathered around, close… but still kept their enough distance. One among them, and perhaps loudest one, was Braum who whistled and clapped with his massive hands enough to create a small circle around him. Those inside circle would feel pain of the loud noise from the merry Freljordian.
"Now that was very good match!" He commented, lowering his hands. Even though this wasn't his battle he still felt a bit of pride because of it, mostly because Garen was the one to deliver the final blow although he couldn't see him anywhere. "What do you think, professor?" He asked, looking down beside him. Small Yordle was staring at the ground, arms folded and foot tapped lightly against the marble floor. After few short seconds of deep pondering, he raised both of his hands and ruffled his own hair almost furiously. Braum tilted his head and bowed his upper body down to be closer at rather nervous Yordle "What is bothering you?"
"I cannot shake the feeling I am forgetting something… Something very important." Heimerdinger said. His mustaches twitched and fingers tapped nervously against elbows.
"Have you forgotten to feed your pet fish?" Braum asked, lifting his eyebrows.
"No no, I fed Tesla before I came here… it is something important… something I know I shouldn't forget."
"Is it about some person then?"
"If I knew that I wouldn't be having this problem." Professor added with a dissatisfied grunt.
"Then perhaps it is not important! If you cannot remember then it was not worth remembering and even if it was it will come to you when you least expect. Either way, no need to worry about it."
"Perhaps." Yordle added, still pondering heavily. In the front, where crowd was thickest, Demacian team continued to wave and boast about their victory along the way to the exit of the Institute. Jarvan in particular did his best to cover his troubled thoughts. In his mind, there was no doubt that Noxus was responsible for this. Swain's excuses had a flaw in their design, perhaps he expected Jarvan to be at the nexus crystal instead of Garen. Tensions are sure to rise up, string of restraint about to snap… they will have to explain missing captain sooner or later and people would not forgive this kind of trickery. Demacia, could very well be counting last days of peace.
"This is all we could find?" Garen asked as he observed items on the grass. After they were sucked into the powerful nexus vortex and found themselves in unfamiliar land, he decided that first and most important thing is to find anything that they could salvage and use. This would usually be impossible but vortex itself seemed to have caught a number of items from the store behind the nexus, taking in all items that were not tied down.
"That's it… rest is either scattered too far or didn't make the trip." Katarina said, crossing her arms and looking at Demacian. His hand rose, rubbing his chin as he observed each of the items individually. Three vials with mending potions, ten packs of sweet rolls, several throwing blades not longer than ones Katarina already uses, leather backpack most likely pulled from the League's merchant that stood to tend the shop, two sets of robes and one white crystal.
"Why do we even need all this?" She asked.
"We are not in Demacia. By the look of it, we are not in Noxus either. Wherever we go, we'll have to go on foot and we will not be able to reach either city within a day. We will need all we can salvage if we are to make the trip and survive. Rations are going to be problem…"
"And how are we going to solve that?"
"We will hunt."
She raised her eyebrow "Hate to disappoint you but we don't have bow and arrow. Even if we did, bow isn't exactly my forte."
"Well maybe not, but you are still good at throwing daggers so these…" He leaned down and picked up four daggers lying on the ground and handed it to Katarina "Should be with you."
"And if I am to do that… what will you do?" Katarina asked, slight smile appeared on her lips as she expected answer.
"Carry all this and lead us home." He answered as he leaned down, placing all items carefully into bag and placed it over his shoulder. "We'll go that way." He pointed forward toward the clearing between two forests.
"How do you even know that is right way?"
"I know Demacia and its land better than I know my pocket and this is not Demacia. It is too bright to be Noxus and definitely not Kaladonn. It is too warm to be anywhere close to Freljord and if we were close to Piltover we would've seen it. That city can be seen hundreds of kilometers away… Only way we can be is south and since that over there is north… we'll go there."
"And what if that's wrong way?" Katarina asked.
"Well… do you have better suggestion where we should go?"
After long pause she pursed her lips "I'll follow, but don't think I am not watching you."
"I expect nothing less." He smiled as he started walking. It didn't take him more than ten meters of walk before he stopped and kneeled. From the grass he picked up his shattered sword. Half of it was missing and that caused Garen's face to appear somber.
"Broken sword?" Katarina asked, standing beside captain who still observed his sword. After few more moments of silence he attached it to his own back.
"Better than none." He said as he started to move yet again. Duo walked toward unknown points, from one to another, constantly saying that on next one they will know where they are, know where to go. Wind constantly shifted its direction. Warm and soft with occasional chilly gust just enough to remind them both that being relaxed is not an option. They already walked for hours, barely speaking more than to ask if there is anything other one recognizes and after receiving negative answer they would continue.
"Why do you think that is the right way?" Katarina repeated her question from before, walking behind Garen but following closely.
"As I said if we were north then-"
"No, I mean, why do you think we are on mainland?" Katarina interjected "For all we know, we could be in Ionia or Blue Flame Island… we may not even be on Runeterra."
Garen stopped, eyes fixed forward and he drew one deep breath. "I know that. I already considered all the possibilities, even one that the nexus sent us who knows where. But we don't have much of a choice. For now, all we can do is go there." He extended his right arm, finger pointing to one of the hills in the distance. Slope was mild, covered with grass but hill seemed to be higher than any other they could see.
"And what is over there?" Katarina asked, looking toward location Garen was pointing at.
"Our vantage point."
"And what do you expect to see from it?"
"Current area of interest."
"Can you at least speak less like military monkey and more like normal, regular human?" She growled at him, rolling her eyes at his concise answers. He smiled, even though he didn't let her see it, he still allowed one to creep up on his face.
"Means that is highest point we have. Once we get there we'll know where we are in this particular area of the world. It is also going to show us if there are nearby villages, man-built roads or any other markers. Now come, we still have half hour of walk until we reach it."
They continued, Garen setting up a pace that Katarina followed. He wanted to reach that point as soon as possible but also he wanted to test something. If they are going to be traveling for days, he needed to know his traveling partner, how fast can she walk, how well does she manage on open land and how much she can endure… all the things he did not know about her but would have to rely on. Hill appeared much higher once they got closer than it did from afar and they started climbing it, using their respective weapons as tools to aid them in their ascension to the top. Finally they reached the top.
"Alright… so what do we see?" Katarina asked, catching her breath and looking around. Area around was nothing that either seemed to be expected. Instead of wide clear fields that they traversed so far, everything from that point forward was covered with jungle as far as eyes can see. Her brows furrowed as she observed dark green scenery and uneven horizon of mountains and canyons, all covered in trees.
"Well I have some good news and some bad news." Garen said as he looked around, turning head from side to side with obvious dissatisfaction at his realization.
"Good one first." Katarina said.
"I know where we are."
"Alright, and the bad news is?"
"I know where we are…" Captain said, now in lower voice.
"You are not making a lot of sense."
"I have been here before. Not here here but I recognize general area in front of us." His right hand moved up and rubbed his face and moved through his hair. Brows furrowed heavily as he continued staring at the distance "We are on the borders of Kumungu jungle which means we indeed are far south on the continent."
"Great…" Katarina added in exasperated voice "So it will take us what… days?"
"More like weeks, months even depending on our pace. But that is not what worries me."
"And what is worrying great and mighty Demacian?" She asked mockingly.
"It was spring yesterday at the Institute and if we are on other side of the world…" He averted his gaze from horizon and looked at Katarina who listened to his explanation with crossed arms.
"Ok, boy-scout you have to be a bit more specific as to what is worrying you."
"It's autumn here, which means we are just going through small patch of favorable weather and it's gonna start raining soon and a lot. After that we have desert to cross which is going to be biggest obstacle."
"Think you're a bit overdressed for hot sun?" She teased with a smirk.
"And you are under-dressed. One thing you need to know about deserts is that they are hot during the day and very cold during the night."
"So what do you suggest? Since you probably went through little eagle-scout school, you probably have some ideas."
Garen let out a sigh. Her attitude was nothing uncommon and between two of them, she was the one who used to giggle in the face of danger. He knew that, he expected that but right now that attitude further brought burden on his chest. Right now, he needed to trust her and for her to trust him. After long pause spent in his pondering he came up with a solution "We go east and reach Bundle City. There should be a pass in the Sablestone Mountains that is being guarded squad of Commandos… Don't laugh, they really have commandos and they are good."
"I am sorry…" Katarina said in between her bursts of laugh "But it is a bit hard to imagine a squad of Yordles in camouflage suits, sneaking around and attacking from ambush."
"Oh is that so?" Garen asked, smiling a bit wider as he turned himself to face assassin fully "I do recall you having a particularly tough time with one particular Yordle whom you called and I quote "spawn of the demons" right after you shouted… and I quote again "come out so I can stuff that mushroom in your-"
"Ok I get it!" She interjected before captain had chance to finish "They are… crafty."
"Yes they are." He said with a chuckle "But more importantly, Demacia and Bundle City are on good terms, which means, we'll heave easier job finding a zeppelin that will take us to Institute of War."
"Sounds easy enough." She said and started walking, moving past Garen who followed her with his eyes first before his feet did the same.
Garen let out another sigh as he looked up in the sky, grunting after he realized that his predictions are coming true. Far into the horizon clouds were gathering, white and gray they appeared from where they are now. "Let's hope it will be that easy."