Chapter 17 – The End of the Tunnel
The Institute of War stood now as it always was, the sentinel built into a mountainside, towering above Toir, watching the world. Yet right in this moment, it seemed asleep, as if it had tired from its duties and shut itself down.
Riven picked herself up slowly and cautiously looked around. There was no sound, not even from the town below. There were no guards at the top of the giant staircase. The only thing that remained the same was the eerie purple glow that encompassed the building.
"Lux? Irelia?" Riven called out, receiving nothing but an echo in return. A sudden chill ran through her. She was alone in the empty place.
Slowly, she walked towards the open doorway of the Institute, gripping her blade tightly for some kind of reassurance. Reason was telling her it was no accident that she was here. The problem was that she couldn't even begin to understand why.
"I may be able to help with that," a deep voice uttered from behind her.
Riven spun around, sword ready to strike. Her eyes fell upon a tall robed figure, standing sullenly at the edge of the staircase.
"There is no need to be on edge, Riven. The deed is done, the conflict over."
"What are you talking about?" Riven said, more as a demand than a question. The figure looked like a summoner, and she wasn't letting her guard down for even a moment.
"It is just as I said. There is no need for violence. We have already earned our victory without it."
Riven looked at him skeptically. Was he an ally or an enemy? "Who's 'we'?"
"Who do you think?" the figure laughed, and removed its hood to reveal a middle-aged man's face, decorated by a thin moustache.
Riven nearly dropped her sword at the sight of it. "You're... the doctor?"
"Correct," he clasped his hands together, before raising them outwards. He spun around slowly, and laughed again, "But I am so much more!"
Riven shifted her weight uncomfortably. This situation was getting more unsettling by the minute.
"And you, Riven!" he shouted, pointing at her, "You are too! I saw it in you, when I first summoned you. You used to be a mere soldier, but look at you now. You have the capability to become a general, an empress!"
Riven remained silent, but her thoughts were churning. Something was off in his words, and it took her a moment to realize it. "When you first summoned me...? I've only been summoned by Nigel and..." she trailed off. So this was the other.
The man bowed deeply, "Lord Falnic, at your service."
'Lord?' Riven thought to herself, 'Well aren't we quick to promote ourselves.'
"With good reason, I assure you,"Falnic said, startling her.
"You're reading my thoughts?" Riven growled. Nigel had told her that was impossible.
"Indeed. Child's play, with the right techniques. And I wouldn't trust your apprentice boy's opinion over my own. He's not exactly a star pupil, if you know what I mean."
"You better not have harmed him," Riven snarled, a fresh wave of anger washing over her as she remembered the sudden loss of contact with Nigel.
Falnic twirled his hand, brushing away the idea, "Please, my intentions are greater than harming children. Ah, and your precious Demacian and Ionian friends are just fine as well. They're simply having a very large 'meeting' with the other champions at Summoner's Rift."
"You expect me to take your word for it?" Riven glowered at him skeptically.
"Of course not. I'll show you," Falnic replied steadily, walking toward her. Riven immediately took on a guarded stance, but the man's body language was entirely relaxed. He passed by her without a care in the world.
'He really does think he's safe,' Riven thought, wondering what he had done here that was so absolute, and so fast. Where was the rest of the League?
"Come quickly," Falnic said as he continued into the Great Hall, "Or you may get lost. And I do not mean physically."
Lost, but not physically? The statement worried Riven enough that she felt the need to follow. What choice did she have?
The Great Hall, too, was missing its life. The last time she'd been here, Nigel had given her the belt he'd made, amongst the buzz of activity. Now it lay dormant.
The man that led her down the staircase to the main floor said nothing to explain himself, and Riven wondered if she'd get a response if she asked.
"Please, ask away," he broke the silence, sounding excited by the idea.
"Could you stop doing that?" Riven growled.
Falnic laughed, "I'm afraid not. You see, we're linked, you and I. I had to summon you in to bring you here."
"Summon? But you're not using a nexus."
"Excellent observation," he laughed, and turned to face her, "So what is it that summoners need to use their specialized magic?"
Riven searched her mind for something Nigel had mentioned recently. This sounded familiar. "A... conduit?"
"Precisely!" Falnic shouted enthusiastically, "The interesting element is, a conduit can take many forms! The League uses nexi because they are the safest form, and abundant in magical potential. But if there were an object with just as much potential, a skilled summoner could use that just as easily!"
Riven stared at him blankly. What did he have that has as much potential as a nexus?
"You're thinking too hard," Falnic grinned. He certainly looked like he was enjoying this.
'Magical potential...' Riven wondered. What was there that she wasn't seeing? He wasn't holding anything. He had no crystals of any sort that she could see. It was simply him.
"What if I were to tell you your sword has the capability to do so on its own. Or, to be more accurate, you have that power, Riven."
"You used... yourself?"
Falnic's grin widened. "It's wonderful, isn't it? You are here because of me, and me only. I am not restricted to one spot, and the risks are minimal. It's what magic should be!"
The worry grew inside of Riven steadily more. She didn't know nearly enough about summoning in the first place, and now she was subject to a more dangerous form of it?
"What do you want with me?" she asked, eager to leave this situation as soon as possible.
"It's quite simple, really," he responded, "You expressed interest in joining us if the conditions were right. Boran's dismissal of your offer was foolish, and I wish to offer you an opportunity."
"And that is?" Riven asked edgily. She wasn't sure if he knew her offer was a false one, and was simply calling her out on it.
Falnic smiled again, "Follow me."
Within a few moments, they had arrived at a summoning chamber in the Eastern Wing. Hadn't Nigel told her to avoid these ones for some reason...? Regardless, Falnic casually strolled to the entrance and threw open the door. Riven cautiously peered in as he disappeared into the darkness of the room, only to find a large amount of summoners standing around a large platform. They appeared to be in the process of summoning, but Riven couldn't tell what, or whom.
"Falnic!" she heard an angry male voice say from within, "What the hell is she doing here?"
Riven found the source of the voice and her mind stirred uncomfortably. It was the summoner she had 'killed' in Ionian, but he was... alive. As much as she could now rationalize being saved from death via summoning, it was still off-putting to see.
"Relax, Boran," Falnic replied, his tone changing to one more commanding, "This is my decision. She will understand."
"Didn't you see how quickly she decided to kill us?" Boran hissed, "She cannot be trusted."
"What do you know of trust?" Falnic's voice rumbled, "I would rather put my life in her hands over yours."
Boran physically deflated at the statement, and sauntered away, a snarl plastered on his face. Falnic glared at his back until the man disappeared from view. "Riven, come here," he uttered sternly, "You wish to see that your friends are safe, do you not?"
Riven cautiously entered the room, wondering if there was some truth to his previous statement. This summoner, Falnic, was impossible to figure out. He was clearly a threat to the League, in some big way, but he also seemed... merciful. Just what kind of person was he?
Falnic placed a hand on one of the other summoners' shoulder, and held his other outstretched towards Riven. He waved her over, and she got the point.
Riven stepped closer, hoping to the gods this wasn't a trap, because her mind wouldn't let her ignore the chance to see everyone safe, with one person standing out in particular. Falnic rested his hand on her shoulder, and Riven immediately felt the magic flowing through her. It flooded her vision, giving her what seemed to be a birds-eye view of Summoner's Rift. And there, on the main base's platform, stood what appeared to be the entirety of the League's roster of Champions.
It looked like the City-state factions had already separated into groups, and Riven quickly searched out the Demacians. She found them near the top of the base, and felt her heart calm as she spotted Lux's familiar form among them, still dressed as she had been in Ionia. She and her brother were talking enthusiastically, or... arguing?
"Lux..." she muttered under her breath. She half-wanted to be able to jump down there and whisk her away from this mess.
"As you can see now, my intentions were not to harm the champions. Our business lies elsewhere."
"They were in pain when you summoned them," Riven replied in monotone.
"Mhm. An unfortunate side-effect of forced-transfer summoning. The others are not as skilled as I, which resulted in some discomfort."
"And what of the initial summoners?" Riven asked, her worry switching to Nigel.
"They'll be confused, but in just as good shape as the champions themselves."
Riven sighed. She didn't know what she could believe from this man, but the evidence was right in front of her. He had done as he said he would, and more. What this all meant, however, still eluded her. How was that simple diversion enough to compromise the entire League?
"That's the golden question, isn't it?" Falnic answered her thought, much to her annoyance.
Riven brushed his hand off her shoulder, returning her vision to the summoning chamber. "Alright, I'll hear you out. But if there's something I don't like, I won't hesitate to stop this." If it came down to it, she was ready to fight more.
Falnic smirked, his face showing its age in its wrinkles. "I don't think that would be a good idea, Riven. I don't know what might happen to you if I were to die, and that's the only way you're stopping me."
"I'll take my chances," Riven stated, pushing away any thoughts of worry.
"Indeed you will..." Falnic observed her for a moment longer, before continuing," Well, I suppose it's time for the main event. The completion of my plan, and the moment of truth for you. I've been waiting a long time for this."
As Riven was led further into the Institute, she kept looking for any sign of life besides what she'd seen. If the only summoners here were Falnic's supporters, where were the others? The halls were empty and silent.
From what Riven could decipher of Falnic's personality, he would probably brag about it easily if she asked, but she was reluctant of the idea. It felt like she'd be submitting herself to him, and that was something she actively avoided whenever possible. At least, it was to people like him. Despite his offers, she knew she should remain sceptical.
"I'm a fellow Noxian, in case you were wondering," he broke the silence.
"I wasn't," Riven replied.
Falnic seemed to not hear her, and continued unabated, "I was also one of the first summoners to join the League. You see, after the last Rune War, as the naive medic that I was, I was convinced it would be a positive change in the world."
"You think it's not, now?" Riven asked, her interest piqued.
"I think many things of it now. Good, bad, everything in between. I've watched it evolve from a beacon of hope to just another political regime. I sat and watched summoners drag creatures from other worlds just to fight for them. I stayed idle while the same old corruption of humanity found its roots and spread. And look at it now! Sacrificing our limited world to settle petty disputes."
"Kalamanda could have ended worse," Riven countered, recognizing the reference.
"But don't you see?" Falnic shouted, "This 'war' was a miniscule battle. It paled in comparison to the Rune Wars, but the League has been so diverted that it doesn't know the difference anymore! Kalamanda wouldn't have affected the world at large! Yes, there might have been some conflict, some death, but Kalamanda would still exist, and the Crystal Scar would not! To what extent should we be peacekeepers, when the world itself is the price?"
Riven didn't have a counter-argument this time. He had a point, and she almost felt swayed by it. Was the decision between the present and future such an easy one to make? And was the past so easily forgotten? She didn't know much about the pre-League days, but she could believe the wars fought in those days were far more devastating than even Ionia.
"But that isn't all," Falnic continued, "That is simply the tip of it. There are plots hidden everywhere. Every one of them has a vendetta, an objective that runs behind the scenes."
"Including you," Riven pointed out. 'Everyone has an ulterior motive.'
"Including me," Falnic sighed, pausing for a brief moment, "But I appear to be the only one who wants to end it. I know it will not be easy, and it might not go quite as I hope, but I believe it's the only way."
"And this way is?" Riven enquired.
Falnic veered to the edge of the hallway and stopped beside a large, intricate doorway. He beckoned towards it. "We've arrived."
Riven looked at the door curiously. She hadn't been here before, and had no clue what lay beyond it. Falnic motioned for her to go ahead and open it, and she hesitated before finally pressing a hand against the wood. With a gentle push, the door easily swung open, revealing the large study-like room within. The walls were lined with bookcases, with not a single space vacant on the shelves. And while the room itself was grand and impressive, Riven's eyes were drawn to the middle of it.
There, in the centre of the open floor, sat a group of older-looking summoners, each dressed in a more ceremonious, detailed robe, and each as still as a morning pond. Some of them had surprised looks frozen on their faces, while others wore a silent contempt. None of them made a move upon Riven's entrance.
"Are they... dead?" Riven asked, a sense of dread running through her mind.
"No, simply not moving. Not very quickly, at least," Falnic responded.
"What do you mean?" Riven questioned, taking a few steps into the room to get a closer look.
"Don't get too close. You might get caught in the interference area," Falnic said from the doorway, "And that isn't a pleasant experience."
Riven stopped midway through the room, heeding his warning, and stared at the group of summoners. Still, she saw no movement. "What did you do to them?"
"It's not what I did to them, it's what I did to us. Are you aware of how Kalamanda was defused?"
"Yes," Riven answered, looking back at him, "They used some kind of time magic to stop everything in the area. But they needed a huge amount of summoners and expended a Nexus to do it." She was curious about what he was getting at. There was no way he could have achieved such a thing.
"Correct," Falnic said, almost gleefully, though Riven didn't know if it was for her answer or her thoughts. Regardless, he continued, "I was there, in Kalamanda. I saw firsthand what sort of magic it was, and saw an opportunity in it. What if, instead of stopping time, we could speed it up? And if we kept the same formula, but minimized the affected area, it would require less energy..."
"...So you could speed yourself up while leaving the rest of the world unsuspecting and intact," Riven finished for him, studying the other figures in the room again. One of them seemed to be in mid-blink now.
"That's it exactly! You're truly exceptional," Falnic remarked, smiling widely.
Riven shook her head, "No, not really. I just analyze possibilities and judge their likelihood," she replied. She wasn't being humble; just truthful. "So what now?"
"This is where you come in," Falnic stated. After a brief pause, as if going over the plan once more in his mind, he continued, "I want you to kill them."
Riven closed her eyes and clenched her jaw, before turning to him. "What?" she said icily.
"Kill them, and you shall be welcomed back to Noxus with open arms." he replied calmly, like this was the easiest decision in the world.
"Why me? And what will this accomplish?" Riven yelled back at him with an anger she didn't understand.
"You have a great future, Riven. I'm simply aiding you in that. What happened to you during the war can be remedied, and what you've done since will be forgotten, erased, and undone. You will be Noxian again, in an age of Noxian superiority."
The realization clicked in Riven's mind, and she stared at the man in shock, "You intend to destroy the League."
"And I am but one step away from succeeding," Falnic responded.
"...What will happen to the world, then?" Riven muttered in thought. There would be chaos. Nothing would prevent another war between Demacia and Noxus. Zaun would likely take the chance to attack Piltover. Would Ionia get involved? And what of Freljord?
"I assure you," Falnic interrupted her thoughts, "Noxus will have a clear advantage in strength, what with the others having lost the majority of their esteemed summoners."
Riven's eyes widened, "You're going to kill them all?"
"Of course, why risk the-"
"And the champions?" Riven interrupted him. A dark feeling had developed in the pit of her stomach.
Falnic paused, and any sort of smugness that remained on his face quickly drained, and was replaced by a grim frown.
"Did I hit the mark?" Riven challenged him, tightening her grip on her sword, "Were you really hoping I wouldn't figure that much out? That I'd grab at any chance to return to Noxus without thinking?"
"We would be willing to make... exceptions, based on your input," he offered, his tone balancing on annoyance.
"And what weight would my say have? What am I worth to you?"
The summoner took a deep breath, and looked at her calmly. "You were the poster child for Noxus, once upon a time. Imagine the reaction of Noxians everywhere when you've come back from the dead, from an epic adventure, slaying beasts and whatever obstructed your way just to return to your home and lead the Noxians once more."
Riven mind faltered. So that was it. She'd be a symbol again. As much as she resented every bit of the idea, she hated that it sounded appealing. An easy way out, an escape of responsibility, simply placed before her. It was ridiculous that she actually considered it. "You'd... erase my past?" she muttered, looking at the floor.
"We can do more than that," Falnic continued, "Full honours for your bravery, a place in the top military officers, your blade restored to its former glory, and, perhaps, even a certain Demacian for a slave, to do with as you wish."
Riven's mind was beginning to spin in circles. Could this actually be a good idea? Could it work? Her dream was to become part of a strong and capable Noxus, to help lead it into a prosperous age, but... it would mean sacrificing her beliefs. It would mean her newly found goals would be rendered useless, her promise to Ionia... she wouldn't be able to fulfil any of it. But was it worth it? For Noxus' sake?
Riven looked again to the group of still summoners in front of her. It would be the easiest thing in the world to kill them. One swing of her sword would do it. One swing to start a war.
Riven closed her eyes, and before her stood Irelia, bloodied, beaten, on her knees. The Ionian looked up at her, eyes full of hatred, "Where is your honour now?"
Riven looked at her blade, it's full form gleaming in its runeglow, the edge stained red, dripping.
"I trusted you! I believed in you!" Irelia shouted. There were tears in her eyes.
"Are we really this far gone?"
Another war? After the last one had gone so badly? With the same promises of a swift and easy victory? And to what end? Power? Control? Ego? Without the League to intervene, there would be no stop to the death and destruction. There had to be another way. A way for Noxus to expand and prosper without the needless violence and chaos of war. Not only for the sake of the people involved, but for the world itself.
Riven opened her eyes, and the answer lay before her. The League. If all future disputes for land were to be held as League matches, all Noxus would need to do is ensure their victory in those matches. A battle to prevent battles. Violence to end violence.
She turned to Falnic, and the look on his face told her that he knew her answer. Still, he asked, "Is that your decision?"
Riven stared back at him as his eyes pierced her with disappointment. "If your goal is to continue along this path of chaos," she replied, "Then I cannot follow you, and I cannot allow it to pass."
"Naive," Falnic sighed dramatically, "Naive, naive, naive. You may be sharp, but you have much to learn. It's really a pity that you won't have the chance."
With a flick of his wrist, Riven was sent flying against the bookshelves in the room. The force of the blow knocked several of the books off the shelf, only to have them fall in a strangely slow way. Riven picked herself up quickly, ignoring the pain in her arm, and dashed towards the summoner. As she raised her sword to strike him, he motioned something with his hand again, and Riven was suddenly on the other side of him, slicing nothing but air.
"Give me a minute, Exile," Falnic chuckled, "If you will not join us, I will need to dispose of you. I'm just trying to figure out where to put you. Perhaps the middle of the sea, where you'll sink to the depths in that treasured armour of yours?"
Riven growled and spun with another slash aimed at his neck. Just as her sword nearly reached him, though, it stopped in mid-air. Her arm wouldn't move.
"You know," Falnic said casually to her, "This is a very convenient way of battle for me. Your intentions are laid bare before me, and your body is under my control. You cannot touch me."
Riven struggled to break free, but it was as if her body refused the orders. The creeping feeling of helplessness revealed itself in the back of her head. She suddenly longed for an ally in this situation, and her thoughts swarmed with all the times Fury Company had pulled through for her.
Falnic smiled condescendingly at her, "Now if you'll sit there and wait just a minute, I can resolve our petty disagreement. What do you think of the Shadow Isles? Seems like a place for a gruesome death, wouldn't you agree?"
"You'll be going to a place much darker than the Shadow Isles," Riven spat. The anger and frustration in her gut was turning to rage. She wanted this man dead, at all costs.
Falnic laughed hideously, "And you plan on sending me there yourself? How?"
"Like this," Riven muttered as her sword erupted in a green light. The ki burst was almost instantaneous, but she still managed to catch a satisfying glimpse of the summoner's surprised expression before the explosion knocked them both away. As soon as she landed, Riven was already dashing back towards the cloud of dust that had been disrupted by the blast, ready to strike again. But before she got there, her feet were lifted off the floor, and she was flung against the other wall, much harder than last time.
Riven crumpled to the floor, gasping for air. Every time she tried, it pained her lungs. Her torso had hit the bookshelf awkwardly, and Riven knew she'd broken several ribs.
"I'd expect nothing less of you, Exile," Falnic's voice sounded above her, "Learning to hide your intentions so quickly. Your talents are wasted in you."
Riven glanced upwards at him with a scowl, only to see him unharmed from the blast. She made a small mental note before swinging her sword outward at him with a pained grunt. He nimbly stepped back to dodge it, chuckling.
"It seems you won't let me do this the easy way. And here I wanted to see what expression you'd make when you realized you were going to die. For real, this time," Falnic continued, his speech seemingly speeding up as it went on.
Riven realized too late what was happening. He was removing her from his field of time magic. She was going to be as frozen as the others in the room. She tried to crawl closer to Falnic, but he moved further away almost instantly before she made it an inch.
Her mind went through a flurry of ideas and plans, and shot them all down immediately. She couldn't get close enough to attack. She didn't have time for anything else.
There had to be a way.
Riven's mind came to a screeching halt at the sound of Lux's voice. 'Lux? How-'
I'm sorry, Riven. This is a one-way message. I can't talk with you, but you're in trouble, so I'm going to help the only way I can. I set this spell up a while back, before we came to Ionia. I wanted you to be safe. Any small magicks would be erased from you, and anything bigger would trigger this message. I'm still not sure what effect it'll have on myself, but this spell will use me as a source to cancel whatever's afflicting you. Use it well. It's all I can do. I lo-... I hope to see you soon.
Riven felt the bracelet on her wrist vibrating, and drew her sleeve to look at it. With a small pop, the rainbow charm shattered in a display of sparkling light, which wrapped around her before vanishing entirely.
All of the sudden, several of the high summoners jumped form their seats. Falnic turned his attention to them with a look of utter shock. "How-?" he cried, his voice somewhere between anger and dismay.
Riven didn't hesitate. With a silent thank-you to Lux, she dashed forwards, her sword held in front to impale the man.
She got within a foot of him before striking the magical barrier he'd placed around himself, and he looked down at her, realization dawning on his face. It spread into a large grin, and he let out a single laugh. "Well that was close, wasn't it?"
"Close enough," Riven muttered, her eyes focused on the next step.
A brilliant green flash encompassed them both, its ferocity fuelled by sheer force of will. And when it faded, the two of them were exactly as they were, though Riven's sword was not.
Falnic raised a hand to touch the blade that had been restored to its full form. He seemed confused by the idea of it as he traced the edge straight to his own body, and felt the warmth of his own blood now streaming from his chest. He opened his mouth to say something, but all that came out was a blood-choked splutter, and his body became limp.
Riven pulled her sword away, and left the summoner's body to fall unceremoniously. 'Is it over?' she allowed herself to think. The leader had fallen, their plan had been stopped, and it would only be a matter of time before the others were rounded up. She just needed to tell the high summoners where to find them. As she turned to face them, though, she realized they were no longer there. Nothing was.
Riven glanced around her, but she was no longer in the Institute. All that surrounded her was the inky blackness of the summoning in-between, with nothing to light the area but the glow of her sword.
There was no immediate rise of panic this time, and instead a sort of surreal calm. She didn't know why she hadn't expected this. Falnic had warned her himself of killing him while she was under his summoning magic. It was logical that there would be a danger to it. And now... was there any going back? Had she done something irreversible to herself?
She almost wanted to laugh at her own stupidity, and instead choked on a sob. It was funny, and horrifying, that she hadn't progressed at all since Coeur. Once again, she'd been so distracted by her goal that she'd ignored the risks. Her lungs were pained with each heaving breath. This was it, wasn't it? She'd die in this nothingness, with no one to help her this time.
Riven's knees buckled beneath her, and she didn't fight to stand. She accepted her pitiful position on the ground. There was no other place she deserved to be. This was one failure too many. Finally, the strain on her will became too much, and her sword returned back to its broken form.
The energy drained from her body as her mind gave up in the darkness. She managed to catch herself as her body fell forwards, and as she did so, Lux's bracelet shifted down her arm. The charm had vanished; all that remained was the chain.
'I'm sorry, Lux. I fucked it up, didn't I? There's... no light left.'
Tears blocked her vision, and more painful sobs racked her body. This wasn't fair. She'd won, she'd defeated her enemy, and was punished for it. This sort of manipulation, of cowardice, had no place in Noxus. Outsmarting your opponent was one thing, but this mutually assured destruction, this disgrace in defeat, was going too far. And... she could do nothing about it now. Noxus was far from this place. The reminder to not forget itself would go unheard. The dream for its future would be lost.
And Lux... Lux would be alone again. Somehow, that hurt more than anything else. She'd broken her promise in less than a day. She hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye, and it stung worse than the pain in her lungs. It was funny how everything could go wrong as soon as it started going right...
"Come on, don't give up yet," a voice said from nearby.
Riven only then realized the weight of a hand on her shoulder, and her instincts kicked into high gear as she scrambled away. When she turned to face the threat, she couldn't believe her eyes. A short young man with jet-black hair stood there, an amused and compassionate grin plastered on his face. That same grin as always...
"Ardus...? Riven whispered, wondering if she'd begun hallucinating.
His grin widened, "Well, who'd you expect? You summoned us here, after all."
"Summoned? Us?" Riven didn't understand. But sure enough, one by one, out of the shadows appeared the entirety of Fury Company. Em, Dassel, Manned, everyone, each with a broad, silent smile on their face, and just as she remembered them. "But... how?" she croaked.
"You don't need to worry about that right now," Ardus replied, stepping forward and extending his hand, "You need to worry about getting out of here."
Riven timidly considered taking his hand, her memory jumping to the nightmare she'd had not too long ago. This wouldn't end the same way, would it?
No... something in his eyes told her she was safe, and she grasped his hand, her mind half-expecting her fingers to pass right through, and the illusion to disappear. Instead, he pulled her up faster than she expected, and ended up within a foot of his body. Before she could react, Ardus pulled Riven closer, and gave her a quick kiss on her lips.
Riven recoiled immediately and pushed him away, amidst the "ooo's" and hoots of laughter form the rest of the company. "Ardus! What the hell!" she yelled, touching her lips subconsciously.
He simply smiled back, clearly pleased with himself. "I just wanted to do that before we were separated again, is all."
Riven stared back at him, her anger settling after the trick, and depression taking over. "You... you're really gone, aren't you?"
Ardus grinned sheepishly, "Yeah, 'gone' would be the right word. I'd love to talk about it, but that's not why we're here. You asked for help, so we're gonna help you. One last time, huh?"
Riven looked away, "I... don't deserve it."
"Yeah, well, we all got something we didn't deserve," Martin retorted, stepping beside Ardus.
Em appeared on the other side, "I think he's trying to say he doesn't blame you, P.C. None of us do."
"I kin'a do," Krim muttered from behind the crowd, his accent giving him away.
"Shut up, Krim," Sal responded.
Riven glanced at Sal in surprise, "You too, Sal?" He was the last she'd expect to be supportive.
And yet, he simply stretched widely and yawned, "My luck ran out. What more can I say? I've got no one to blame but myself. Well, except for one..."
"Do us all a favour, Riven," Ardus said as they all piled in around her, "Get us some revenge. Save Noxus. And be happy. Everything'll turn out fine."
Riven almost wanted to cry, but forced herself to smile in front of her soldiers. She couldn't be weak with them. They gave her strength. With Fury Company at her side, she could overcome any challenge. And if they weren't, their spirits were. She wasn't alone. She had her companions all along. And there was someone waiting for her to return, so that she could feel the same.
The darkness was pierced by a bright blue glow, and Riven looked around her, only to find the light was coming from the belt Nigel had given her. Slowly, it crept onto her, and Riven watched it grow.
She looked back to her comrades, their faces lit brightly by the magic's glow. Ardus saluted her, and the others followed suit. "Kick some Zaunite ass for us, will you?" he said with a dark grin. The others laughed and cheered and yelled similar, more aggressive phrases.
Riven nodded, a smirk growing on her face. If it was revenge they wanted, it was revenge they'd get. It was the least she could do for her family.
With a final blue flash, Riven felt the magic take hold of her, and in another brief bout of darkness, Fury Company vanished, replaced by the familiar scenery of a blue-tinted summoning chamber.
"She's back! She's safe!"
Riven tried to turn to see who was speaking, but everything seemed fuzzy. She felt gravity take hold of her as her muscles failed, and everything went dark again.
Will she be alright?
Can't say for sure. No one's been lost for that long before. Not without some sort of damage.
It was a good thing you found her when you did, Nigel. Any longer and...
The sounds of a discussion slowly drifted into Riven's consciousness as she awoke.
"...you'll never do something like that again," said a man's voice. It was gruff, but clear and concise. A soldier, by the sound of it.
"Like what? I already told you I don't know what happened," a young woman's voice replied. This one sounded familiar somehow, but she couldn't put her finger on it.
"I'm not stupid, sister," the male voice seemed on edge, "A week ago you suddenly start following this Noxian, and then you disappear without a word. And then when you do come back, you pass out for three days? How do you expect me to believe you?"
'Noxian,' the word rang in Riven's head repeatedly, 'That's right, I'm Noxian. Are they talking about me?'
"I don't expect anything of you, brother," the female voice answered, "I never have, and I never will. Think what you want, but I'm not going to sit here and be grilled by an inconsiderate assh-"
'Lux...' Riven stirred, 'That's her name right?' Her mind went over it several times, making connections. 'Lux... Lux...'
"Lux!" Riven shouted, sitting up abruptly. She shielded her eyes as the sudden amount of light stung them. After a brief adjustment, she looked around in confusion, only to find two figures sitting on a bed only a few feet away, staring back at her.
And there she was. Luxanna Crownguard, and her brother Garen. Riven's heart skipped a beat in the awkward situation, and Garen gave a heated look at Lux before standing.
"We'll discuss this later," He fumed, exiting the room and slamming the door behind him.
Riven's eyes travelled from the door to Lux, who had a conflicted expression on her face. "Well that could have gone better..." the Demacian mumbled. The look quickly changed to one of relief, as their eyes met. "Riven," she said quietly, "Are you alright?"
Riven stared back for a moment, considering the question. Instead of answering, she made to get up off the bed.
"Riven, wait," Lux said louder, "You shouldn't be up yet."
Riven ignored the plea and placed her feet on the floor, slowly shifting her weight onto them. Every muscle in her body was screaming at her, but she fought through it, gritting her teeth. Finally, she pushed herself off the bed, only to stumble forward and crumble at Lux's bedside. The blonde only stared, her mouth open and face covered in worry.
With renewed effort, Riven pulled herself up and threw herself onto the bed, ending up across Lux's legs. She looked up at the girl, realizing how pitiful she looked, and Lux smirked.
"You know, Riven, I could have come to you instead," she giggled, extending a hand.
Riven accepted the help, and dragged herself closer, wasting no time in kissing Lux when she was near enough. Lux returned it passionately. When Riven lost the strength to hold her position, she let herself collapse into Lux's waiting arms. The warmth of her body, the taste of her lips, the smell of her skin, everything felt perfect in that moment, in spite of the pain.
"I missed you," Lux whispered, kissing the top of Riven's head, "I heard what happened. You were so brave. I'm proud of you."
Riven took a deep breath as the memories came flooding back. Falnic, the battle, the darkness. It was all clear again. And it only made this moment more enjoyable.
"I love you," Riven whispered back, glad to finally get the chance to say it again, and fearful for when she might have another.
"I know. I love you too," Lux held her more tightly, and Riven noticed that at the very least, her ribs weren't in pain any longer. With a little less to worry about, she pushed herself up again to continue their kiss. Only when they door opened a few minutes later did they break apart, both looking concernedly at the intruder.
"Am I... interrupting?" Nigel asked, his face going as red as his hair.
"Yes," Riven and Lux said in unison.
Nigel raised a finger to say something, but stopped, turned around, and left the room again. There was a click as the lock was set.
Riven met Lux's eyes and smiled, closing the distance between them again.
The next few days were eventful, despite Riven being confined to the hospital wing. Many of the high summoners came to discuss what had happened, and garner answers from what Riven had seen. Not once did they try to intrude on her thoughts, and instead relied on her testimony alone. It was soon determined that they could only conclude Falnic had indeed been leading the group, which had been apprehended soon after. Any link to Noxus pulling the strings was circumstantial and unprovable.
Lux had recovered fully within a day, and left to take care of her own responsibilities. When she visited, she said that despite his earlier attitude, Garen hadn't brought up the subject again, and no one else had questioned her. She was a little depressed that she couldn't use the cover story she'd thought up, but seemed glad that it was over.
Several of the Ionians dropped by to wish her well. Lee Sin promised her a match when she was well, and Irelia stayed a long while, talking about the odd occurrence at Summoner's Rift, and how the League had asked her to keep quiet about anything she knew. They were sticking with a story that the event had been an emergency drill, and a test for the summoners, with sincere apologies for whatever inconvenience it had caused. Not many actually bought it, but no one seemed interested enough to find out what really happened.
Finally, on the third day, both Nigel and Lux visited. Nigel had a new set of robes, apparently given to him for his success in his mission, and going beyond their expectations. As Riven sat in bed, finally feeling enough strength to move comfortably again, a thought came to her. "So, how did you find me, Nigel?"
The boy looked off into empty space for a moment before answering, "I'm not really sure... I just kind of felt a large amount of energy while I was looking, like something huge was there. When I searched closer, I recognized my own residual magic on the belt I made for you. After that, it was a cinch to get you out."
Riven nodded. A large amount of energy, hm? Lux sat down beside her and squeezed her hand, looking down at her endearingly.
"Oh," Nigel continued, "I was supposed to mention that as of today, you are discharged from hospital. You're free to go."
Riven let out a sigh of relief. This room was starting to make her feel edgy. She needed her training. Lux beamed down at her, and Riven smiled back.
"...I'll leave you two alone now," Nigel finished, looking awkward. With a quick wave, he left the room.
"Thank you, Nigel," Riven called after him, and shifted to sit up straight. She looked back to Lux, "So... what now?" she said quietly, with a hint of unsureness.
Lux picked up on the tone of the question, and stayed silent for a long minute. "I suppose... it would be best if we kept this a secret. For now, at least. I'm not sure what might happen if someone found out."
Riven nodded slowly. It wouldn't exactly be easy to keep a secret within the League, but... if others could do it, then she'd definitely try. She was up for the challenge, given the reward.
"It don't think there would be an uproar if we were simply friends," Lux offered, "...How are your pretending skills?"
"Terrible," Riven laughed, "But I think I might know someone who can help me with that."
Lux grinned, and leaned down to kiss her once. "Sounds like a deal," she agreed, "I owe you for that martial arts training anyhow."
"What? No freebies for my sake?" Riven complained with a smile.
"Nothing's free, my love," Lux teased before standing, "Well, I must go. Duties call. I'm expected at some silly meeting for something I don't quite care about."
Riven rolled her eyes, "Sounds fun. Tell me all about it later."
Lux wagged her finger, "No can do. State secrets and all. Can't let Noxians know where Prince Jarvan plans to hold his birthday party, now can we?"
Riven laughed, and dragged Lux down for one more kiss. "I love you," she said quietly.
"And I you," Lux replied with a wink. With a large hop, she skipped over the bed and jogged out of the room. Riven's eyes lingered on the door as it swung shut behind her.
"Everything'll turn out fine."
A flapping of wings attracted her attention, and she turned her head to see a bird atop the open windowsill. A large black raven, only... it had six red eyes. A chill ran down Riven's spine as it cawed loudly, and she glared back at it challengingly, knowing full well who it belonged to. The raven ruffled its feathers, cawed again, and took off back out the window.
Riven sat in thought, staring at the spot the raven had stood.
'And so it begins.'
...And so it ends.
That's right. This was the final chapter. It feels kinda surreal to be finished. It's been one incredible journey from beginning to end, and I don't mean just for Riven and Lux. I've personally met some of the most amazing people through this story, and I can't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't.
I'd like to thank these people in particular for being supportive, helpful, and just plain awesome:
- Silver of Souls
- Grand Viper
- Kobu Zero
- Mr Ratz
I'd also like to thank every single fan that's bumped my thread consistently on the forums. You know who you are, I know who you are, but there's just too many of you to list here. :P
Finally, I'd like to thank you, whoever you may be, for getting to this point. I'm glad I've been able to share my story with you, and I hope I've given you some amount of happiness, sadness, inspiration, or even made you feel anything at all in the process. All the feeeeeeels.
Next, I'd like to point out that I do realize that the quality of my writing has improved somewhat since I started this story. I mean, I'd certainly hope it would after working away for a year and a half. What that means, though, is that the early chapters just aren't up to par with what I want.
A lot of things changed halfway through, and I need to go back and update everything to make it work better (particularly in regards to Falnic, in case you were caught off guard by his sudden personality :P). I'll be going back sometime soon to rewrite/update. I won't be changing the story, so don't worry about having to reread or anything. Just QOL fixes. :)
Finally, I'd like to say one thing about the lore direction Riot is taking. And that is... Ezreal/Lux must be stopped at all costs. It doesn't have to be Riven/Lux, as amazing as that would be, but Ezreal certainly doesn't deserve her. So go on the forums! Release your inner rage! Laser all the threads! Wind Slash the word Ezreal in all of them! Let your voices be heard across Runeterra! Lux deserves better! :O
(And, if you wish, promote Riven/Lux :D)