Chapter 5

The morning found Riven in a more serious mood than the night before, lying awake in her cot even before Irelia came to rouse her. Staring up at her tent canopy while lying still with a placid expression, she didn't even move to acknowledge the shifting of tent flap that announced the commander's entrance. Her motionless posture, along with the glazed way her eyes seemed not to focus on anything at all, made her look nearly dead. It was a passing resemblance betrayed by her steady breathing and the colour in her face, but an unsettling one none the less. She'd have remained that way, trying to ignore the immediate presence of her friend of a blade hadn't laid itself against her neck. That wasn't what provoked her to move, though. In fact, she was content to lay that way, but the flat of the weapon touched her beneath the chin, drawing her gaze toward Irelia's. It moved like a hand, gentle and respectful of the trust its position implied, and even seeming to shift against her skin reassuringly once its' owner was certain Riven was conscious and healthy.

"You're up early." She noted, but her manner and tone indicated concern. Still, the blade swept back behind her, leaving behind a cool sensation where it had touched Riven a moment before. "We're leaving right away. Ready?" Her head tilted, making her seem the light hearted counterpoint to Riven's dreary stillness that morning. The response was a slow nod from her friend, but she didn't move right away.

In her head, Riven's mind was mired in heavy thought and doubt. She didn't want to leave. She didn't want to return to the Institute and sit idle while the world around her changed without her intervention, while friends fought and died without her aid. It was like surrendering, but that only strengthened her resolve to return. Riven had spent time imagining herself tracking Irelia down after her friend returned to Ionia, in disguise, of course. That was off the table for the moment, though; Irelia was watching her expectantly, waiting for her to stir.

"Come on, get up." Turning her back to the cot, Irelia followed this suggestion up with a sweep of her blades to pull away Riven's covers, finally causing a jolt of movement from the lethargic Noxian as she became reacquainted with the cool morning air against her bare skin. "Now." Covering herself with folded arms and bent knees, Riven forced herself to push the weight of her thoughts aside and make a move, if only to keep Irelia's mind at ease. Uneasy minds ask pesky questions, after all. Rising to her feet, Riven hopped lightly from her bed and onto the dirt floor bare footed. From there she strode around the commander's left side, angling her body to the side to slip past the floating blades that accompanied her and step into her field of view.

"It's cold." She made the complaint while looking over her friend slowly from toe to head, examining her travelling clothes. Polished black boots, folded below the knee and fastened by belts, loose fitting grey pants, and a royal blue longcoat, with six pairs of shining buttons running upward above her waist. At her chest the jacket opened into neatly folded lapels with a deep collar that seemed to hold Riven's attention just a moment longer than she had intended. Her eyes moved higher, meeting Irelia's own and locking themselves there. "This is an awful lot of trouble to keep me out of the war... But you look nice."

For her part Irelia was unsure how to behave, looking back into Riven's eyes with a slightly off center expression, lips barely parted and brows raised. Her blades swung in closer to her body, as if they had a mind of their own, pressing into her coat, perhaps to hide whatever passed for their faces. Riven wondered for a moment if they were shy, and that seemed odd to her. To imagine a sword as shy, if it possessed a personality at all, was unusual, but she put that aside, and in fact laid a hand on Irelia's shoulder to run the fabric of her lapel between a thumb and forefinger.

At length, Irelia made the only suggestion she could think of. "...Get dressed, Riven. You'll catch cold." With a shrug, Riven spun on her heel and stepped away from Irelia to oblige her request, hand falling away from her friend almost without thought, brushing the coat as she pulled away.

Behind the commander she quickly and efficiently began to gear herself in the Ionian uniform she'd been given the day before, for lack of any other clothing. It was relieving at least that she didn't have to wear the helmet. She noted with a small smirk that her sharply dressed friend paused for a moment as she dressed before walking swiftly out of the tent. She hadn't looked behind her or spoken a word.

Outside Irelia bit lightly on her lip while standing pole straight outside the tent's entrance. For a moment she felt almost like she was standing a post, and quickly relaxed her posture, but found her hands opening and closing into fists quickly, as though she were nervous. Releasing her lip from between her teeth she wondered for a moment if she actually was. That thought was dismissed immediately from her attention, and she sighed as a way to reset the rhythm of her breathing, calming her thoughts and letting herself relax while she waited for Riven to 'do her hair'.

Sure enough, Riven emerged only moments later, sword and pack slung over her shoulder, with one hand at the back of her head mussing her hair, and a crooked smile for Irelia, who had to admit the bed-head look kind of suited her.

"What now?" The smirk on her face seemed to disappear, replaced by the stony look she'd displayed in her bed once she spoke. She looked directly into her friend's eyes again, and this time the other woman found herself unable to maintain the gaze, looking away. The response was a nod of her head to the side, and a step in the indicated direction, leaving the clear implication that Riven was to follow her.

The pair walked in silence away from the military encampment, to where Kayle and Yi waited with horses. The latter's presence unsettled Riven, somewhat. She'd known that Kayle would be accompanying them, but Yi was an unexpected addition to their travelling party, and she wondered why he'd come with them. It certainly did nothing to improve her mood. She didn't hate the man, or even resent his hatred for her. She hadn't been present at the eradication of his village, but she'd taken part in that war, and stained her hands with Noxus' other atrocities. Just being around him made Riven feel like she was nothing more than the sum of her crimes.

With the Noxian army in the West, the travellers were bound East toward a smaller port-town where they'd board a ship, a repurposed caravel. The journey was a short one, a detail for which Riven in particular was grateful, though it seemed none of them enjoyed riding along in awkward silence. Despite a stony expression, it was obvious who the silence weighed heaviest on, and the transparency of it did nothing to lessen the burden.

Worse yet, the silence left her alone with her thoughts. While outwardly still, internally the Exile was experiencing a familiar sense of turmoil. She had work to do, things to set right, and her chance was being taken away. She wasn't even certain why she went along with it, though she had her suppositions. It was Irelia, that was what kept her on the road, not necessarily in line, but willing to follow. She'd become caught up in the woman, and that wasn't unexpected. Her interest had begun years earlier, but in a completely different form. She'd feared meeting her.

When Riven had joined the League, she had known that meeting the Ionian champions would be a complicated affair. She knew what they saw in her, largely because she saw it in herself. She'd been met with hatred, and resentment, things she'd expected. The Ionians had every reason to loathe her, and she was unapologetic. After her experiences in the war, things like words seemed fleeting and weightless. She had no intention of telling them she was sorry, a few words couldn't repair the damage she'd done, it had have been insulting to suppose such a thing. Instead, she'd done her best to communicate her intentions through action.

Riven had fought on the Noxian side in the judgement that would decide the fate of a large portion of Ionian soil. To her it had seemed like the right way. For Noxus to win ground on the strength of their soldiers, or to lose, fairly, and they had lost. When it happened, Riven found herself conflicted, but pleased. She had fought hard, her hardest, and the Ionians had won. She was happy for them. After the match she took a moment aside to congratulate them, in earnest. That moment had been the start of the change in her interest.

They were polite to her, all of them. Some, as the Blind Monk, who had personally suffered to end the war, were even gracious, but all of them were skeptical - All of them, with the exception of Commander Irelia, who had turned things on their head by looking Riven in the eye and sincerely commending her. She knew that, for Riven, the fair fight had been a victory as well. One of principle, and the redemption of the Noxian way. Strangely, despite having fought on the opposite side in the war, Irelia seemed to understand.

Moored in her thoughts of the past, Riven hardly noticed the loveliness of the Ionian countryside she was passing through. Riven's moodiness wasn't lost on Irelia, who wasn't entirely sure what to make of it; before, there had always been an innate playfulness to her melancholy, a silver lining on a darker cloud. Her own dark cloud had almost descended on the Commander as an obnoxious, deep chuckle came from ahead of their little warband. Kayle reacted in typical Kayle fashion, with her sword bursting into angelic fire, which in Irelia's opinion certainly counted as 'fair warning.'

"Helloooooooooooooo there ladies and gent! May I divert your attention to stage le... No, wait... Morgana? What was my opening again? Is it left or right?" Draven's full showman's baritone burst out from a copse of trees to the party's left, followed by a feminine, annoyed sigh. "Ha, whatever." His dismissive reply was almost immediate.

"LEFT. Idiot." Morgana made her stately way from the copse proper, followed by full ten man honor guard of the Second Fury Company, scowling under her long bangs. It was clear from her expression that the Fallen One had been dealing with Draven's theatrics for the past several hours. "What my incompetent cohort intends to emphasize is that you are all treading very closely to the possible end of the new Occupation of Ionia. We only invaded for Riven, as we all well know."

Authors' notes below

ScreamPaste: Hey, guys, so we made a few small lore adjustments this time around. Just small tweaks you may have noticed, like Riven's participation in the Noxus/Ionia match.

Senescha: Sorry we were slow! *Puts on Rammus Shades* Deal wit' it. B|