The last few moments of Boram Darkwill's life were perhaps some of the most enlightening in his entire life. The night of his death, on his way to Kalamanda, he slept in his overly lavish and regal tent. His pratorian guard, several members of the the Raedsel unit, slept in their own modest tents in a circle around him. The slightest sound would alert them to almost any presence that dared to tred near them. The field in which they camped for the night had no foliage, nothing to obscure the sight of the watchmen, nothing at all could surprise the highly trained Noxian soldiers.
The eternally youthful ruler of Noxus slept peacefully, his head resting against a silk, gold embroidered pillow while he snored loudly. For no particular reason, save for gut instinct, Boram snapped awake and sat up in his cot. He stared into the darkness that occluded his vision. Boram squinted, then grunted at the corner of his tent, his tone authoritative, "What do you think you are doing, LeBlanc?"
Golden heels soundlessly walked out of the shadows, the black peeling away from the woman's body as though it were a coat as the deceiver stepped into view. She smiled as she spoke, her voice resembled the cascade of shattered crystals, "Was I so obvious, Darkwill?"
"Answer my question."
"There's no rush, darling." When LeBlanc spoke the last word, one could almost taste the hate that flew from her lips. "Let's have a drink first, shall we?"
Darkwill slid off his cot and walked into a section of the obscuring shadows within the tent. Sickly green, necromantic magic hummed from his body which provided a little illumination for him. Every step his bare, slender feet took, the grass he stepped on blackened and browned, twisted about and died. Wisps of their life force seeping into the ruler of Noxus' body.
The green light revealed a strange, chest-like piece of furniture as well as a decorated oak table and a pair of chairs. He leaned over and clicked it open. The dull shine of glass could be seen, glinting from the green light that shone from him. Darkwill withdrew a bottle of dark red wine and two glasses.
"Do make that four glasses in total, dear. I'll be drinking for three." LeBlanc stood in place, patiently waiting with staff in hand which hummed with a faint, purple energy. For some reason though, she was still smiling.
Darkwill shrugged and placed the two glasses on the table. He reached over and tapped the edge of the glass closest to him. "Answer, then I will pour."
"Always the gentleman, Darkwill. Quite the gentleman indeed!" The mock in her tone bore no effort to be disguised. "You don't want me to be honest, Darkwill. You honestly don't."
"I honestly do," he retorted, circling his finger along the rim of the glass. "I am a personal believer of making one's last moments somewhat enjoyable if it can be afforded. I have let you live as long as you have because it worked in my favor. You fight for Noxus, you have successfully furthered my agenda yourself, you volunteered for the Ionia versus Noxus rematch. I let you live, because you could do nothing to stop me if you wanted to, and we both let the sleeping dog lie."
Boram looked over at LeBlanc, his voice low. "So why waken the sleeping dog, LeBlanc? I know you are not Emilia. Perhaps you are Josephine? Maybe Mona? Or was it Evaine whose body you have hopped into now? Why take such a risk when I am still Darkwill, and you are a shadow of your former self? Tell me the truth, I am quite curious and we both know that even you grow tired of the game at times."
"Me? Tired of the game? Never. But very well, Darkwill. I shall tell you the truth." LeBlanc leaned ever so slightly forward, her smile still evident. "You are going to die tonight, and there's nothing you can do about it."
"Mhm. I see. Well, thank you for telling me, LeBlanc." Darkwill half filled the glasses with the red wine. "What's changed to make you so bold? I'm still Boram Darkwill, the Raedsel guard surrounds us, the first twitch I make will have them descend on you and cut you to ribbons."
Before Darkwill could grab the wine glass it started to levitate. It quickly floated over into LeBlanc's open hand who still had that same, damn, smile on her face. "Why should I tell you, when my associate can do a much better job?"
Out of the shadows, a new figure emerged. An old man with a cane, wrapped in the gold and dark green robes, stepped forward. Three pairs of red eyes glinted and stared at Darkwill from the darkness, and was soon revealed to belong to a raven that sat perched on the shoulder of the man.
The older man, Swain, nodded. A scarf covered the lower half of his mouth, his red eyes looking about the room. "It is a nice tent, High General."
"Swain, what are you doing here?" Darkwill picked up his glass and swirled it about, staring at the general.
"Is it not obvious, Darkwill?" Swain waved his fingers at LeBlanc, "I believe the Matron has told you the truth already."
"...So I was right. You are a traitor." Darkwill tapped the side of his head, "I have not yet been wron-"
A ridiculously loud cackle, along with the cawing of a raven, ripped through the tent. Darkwill's eyes darted about, none of his guard apparently heard such a loud sound.
"You were wrong the very moment you were made the leader of Noxus." Swain hobbled over to one of the two chairs, pulled it out, and sat on it. His raven flew off his shoulder and rested herself on LeBlanc's outstretched forearm. The raven's claws firmly secured itself onto the golden armband. "What you wanted to do, was to reclaim Demacia as part of what rightfully belongs to Noxus, yes?"
"Yes. Your point?"
"Where are you going now?"
"To Kalamanda," Darkwill took a hearty chug of his wine, nearly finishing it in a single gulp. He nodded his head about while saying, "To reinforce the peace treaty with Demacia. Because of the prisoner's death, too many discrepancies have been brought up. Too many events, too many oddities, I have to make sure for the future of Noxus that the peace we have managed to maintain remains. I will have to...be..."
Swain stared at Darkwill, who seemed to slowly put things together in his head. The ruler of Noxus stared at his general, the sickly, necromantic magic surging out from him. "You."
"It took you this long to realize such a plan. Do you know why? Because you are an idiot." Swain's voice rose in volume. "You are not only an idiot but a lunatic. You started the war with Demacia, you were the one who led Noxus through two Rune Wars against the Demacians, you were the one who wanted to claim Demacia through blood. You spent centuries, time and time again, trying to do accomplish a simple goal. It took you several centuries to realize the futility of your actions, and what is your answer?"
Swain slammed his open palm onto the table, letting the sound boom forth, "Supplication!" The general settled his temper and himself before speaking again,
"Essentially what you've been doing is going one plus one equals three for several centuries, trying to make it fit. You are a lunatic for trying the exact, same, formula for every single conquest. It rarely worked yet you continued to use it as the ultimate solution to every, single one of your aspirations. The moment I'm in charge, I win your battles, your wars, your efforts. Give me any task and I succeed. The moment I am not included in something? Abysmal failure. Look at Ionia, you fool. If I was in charge, I would have those pacifists licking my boots in mere moments. My only failure was the one time that I had Jarvan IV, in Noxus, in my grasp, ready for execution. In all of your centuries, the closest you got to a Lightshield was when you let Jarvan III sneak in and release dozens of slaves from the heart of Noxus. You are never aware of the consequences of your actions. All you are is an outdated hedonist, a man who should never have been in the position that you are in. You are an abysmal, worm of a man with too much strength and too little brain power to rule, and it is an atrocity that you have for so long."
The general chuckled and pressed his fingers against his forehead. "You have no idea how long I have wanted to say that."
Darkwill did not seem impressed with Swain. "So that is why you are going to try to kill me? Because you don't want peace with Demacia?"
"Are you that dense? You do not deserve to rule Noxus, Boram." Swain tapped his chest, "I do. The Black Rose shall bloom once more. We will put things as they once were, with the Rose's connections and my genius, we will take back what rightfully belongs to us. Unlike you, smashing your metaphorical head into the wall until you give up, I can see that you can walk around the wall."
Swain leaned his head onto his knuckled fist, staring at Darkwill with his red eyes all the while. "Any last words, Darkwill?"
"Yes, what makes you think you can possibly kill me? I am High General Boram Darkwill, I am the strongest fighter in all of Noxus, the most powerful necromancer in all of Runeterra, and you think an old man with a bird and an illusionist can kill me? The moment my guards awake-"
"They're dead." LeBlanc sipped at her wine, still smiling.
"They're dead. The moment I walked in their hearts stopped. They're all dead. Unfortunate, but necessary. Their throats are now being slit by two of our members, dressed in typical Demacian armor and wearing the standard Demacian army boots, and they will leave. Their corpses will be burnt to assure no identification can be made, but better safe than sorry. We are being as thorough as possible. All that is left, is you, me, the bird, and my dear Jericho."
Darkwill poured himself another glass of wine, handing the bottle over to Swain. He took a drink from the glass and shook his head, "And what makes you think that the two of you are even close to a match to me?"
Swain's raspy voice answered, "First: You are nowhere near a Nexus, meaning you cannot tap into its magic for anything. All of your magic must be conducted through your body which significantly weakens you. Second: This is the first time you have left Noxus in centuries, and you are now currently in the middle of literally nowhere. Third: You have no other bodies in which to power your necromancy, as we have effectively surrounded your tent with temporary glyphs that will not permit your power to escape the bounds. Fourth: You let us settle in as deep as we have, and for your ignorance you will have to die."
Darkwill snorted and let out a light chuckle. "That only means my power will be concentrated on the two of you. This will be but a moment." He polished off his glass and shook it at the deceiver while staring at his general, "Now then, shall we dance?"
"We?" LeBlanc looked over at Beatrice and nodded her head. The deceiver reached up at the circlet that adorned her brow and took it off. "Why would we dance? I never said we were going to kill you, I said you're going to die tonight."
The high general blinked, trying to make sense of what was just said. "If not you, then who-"
"BoRAm. It hAS bEEn toO LOnG."
The glass fell from his hand. Necromantic magic roared from him, concern and even the slightest hint of fear crossed his features. "...No...You, I killed you. You're dead."
"YoU ANd I boTH KnOW ThAt In NoXus, death is a promotion." Vile purple magic shrieked out at the High General, all reaching out to pierce his chest. "But FoR You, DEAth is An ETERNITY!"
Darkwill's eyes went wide. He raised his hands up in defense, the souls of the damned flying to his aid.
A horrid screech was then heard, followed by a surge of green magical energy exploding from within the tent. If the glyphs were not in place, as they brightly shone, the blast would have been easily seen for miles around and was quite thoroughly dampened. Some sort of magical darkness quickly covered any light that tried escaping the tent, and the faintest traces of purple could be seen dissipating into the night.
Swain rose up from his seat and hobbled over to LeBlanc who was affixing her circlet back onto her head. "How much time has passed?"
"Time?" The deceiver laughed and grinned. "Time is relative to someone such as me. I would say...a minute has passed in total. Go on back to your meeting, my most handsome swain, and prepare to mourn for the loss of our leader tomorrow morning."
"I will come with a patrol, concerned for the safety of Darkwill's only to discover the tragedy that has befallen him at the hands of the Demacians."
LeBlanc caressed Swain's cheek tenderly, "I will clean up and meet with you in a bit, darling. Hail Noxus."
Beatrice flew over and settled herself on Swain's shoulder, preening her feathers. A hint of red liquid could be seen dripping from her beak, quickly snuffed by her black feathers.
Riven could barely see. She was in an ocean of red. Taking a step forward gave her absurd amounts of resistance. The liquid was too thick to be water. She reached down and scooped up a handful of the liquid, a human ear resting on her palm. She was in an ocean of blood. Riven took another step forward and felt a hand grip her ankle. With a hard tug, the exile saw the hand belonged to an Ionian she had killed. Instead of yanking it away, she allowed the grip to stay.
More hands started to grab onto her arms, her legs and her neck. Arms started to wrap themselves around her body as she walked knee deep in gore. Her right hand tightly held her sword, reformed and brimming brightly. All the corpses, all the dead whispered to her the entire time, "Why...Why...Why..."
Riven continued her trudge, various skulls and dismembered limbs floating by her. She remembered when this would bring her low, when she would cow and weep for the atrocities she had committed. Not anymore. Riven shrugged her shoulders forward, firmly securing the grasping corpses onto her as she continued her slow walk. Eventually, she came upon others standing upright. Men and women dressed in the armor of Noxian infantry. Riven raised her sword up, stared them in their face, and sliced through them. They fell before her, falling apart like ragdolls. Once they fell into the gore, she could feel them grip onto her and add onto the weight. She continued to cut a path through the soldiers until a child stepped in front of her.
Riven stopped. She tightened her grip on her sword and raised it up. She stared the child in her eyes, Riven's piercing gaze making the little girl quake at the prospect of death.
A soft voice seemed to waft throughout the landscape.
Oh...My-lit-tle-sun-lit child so near so dear to, my, heart...
What strange lyrics. So foreign, yet so warm. So memorable. It almost sounded like...a lullaby, from long ago.
The sword was lowered. Riven walked past the little girl when she felt a sharp pain in her side. The girl had unsheathed a knife and stabbed Riven.
The exile gripped the knife, pulled it out of the girl's hands, and kept walking towards the groaning gates of Noxus, where a monstrous raven was perched. Their eyes met, and Riven continued to walk forward. More cuts, more lacerations, more of her blood spilled, she staggered from fatigue, but she kept walking.
Oh my child do not forget that even in the dark,
Riven took her first step on solid ground before Noxus, a human skull underneath her boot. She looked at its empty gaze and knelt down. Her fingers brushed the eye sockets while tears streamed down her face. Tightening her grip on her sword, she got back up, and took a second step up the stairs. Then a third step, and then a fourth step.
Riven's eyes opened. She blinked and let out a breath of annoyance. She had finally woken up, and felt like her entire body was numb. The exile sat up in the bed, thoroughly annoyed. She could hear voices from outside her door, though not what they said. Riven looked over at her side, seeing Irelia by her bed but asleep on a chair. Irelia's sword rested on the wall closest to her, humming as though it were snoring.
The door creaked open, and the smell of baked goods permeated the air. Irelia blinked awake and looked at the approaching figure. A thick miasma could be felt approaching them. Irelia snorted and wiped at her eyes, her hair a mess but her tone as authoritative as ever. "Morgana."
"Hello, Ionian. I decided to come by and bring these."
Irelia pointed at Riven who was staring at her, "She's still asleep. Go away, angel. Leave her alone."
"Riven, are you asleep?"
Before Irelia could reply, Riven said, "I have awakened. Am I needed?" The exile woman looked around for a trace of her sword. She did not have to look far as her leg shuffled and was prodded by a heavy object. The sword laid in bed with her, underneath her bed covers as though it were a sleeping babe. How odd, she had not even noticed its presence.
"Riven, you're awake!"
"...Yes? I am?"
Irelia's sword flew up behind the Ionian while she got out of her seat. "I was starting to get worried. Are you actually awake, or...?"
Riven raised an eyebrow in confusion at the question. "...I'm awake. Why?"
Irelia nodded. Her tone betrayed the concern she had for her friend. "You have been in bed for more than a month. The venom, the loss of blood, the broken bones, the internal bleeding, you had pneumonia from the hypothermia you experienced. You would sometimes speak as though you were awake, but you would not always make the...most of sense."
Riven reached up at her head. It felt itchy. Actually...her whole body felt itchy. She focused her eyes and stared at the white blanket that covered her. It was a fur pelt. She tilted her head in confusion, trying to figure out why a pelt would be here. Riven scratched the side of her face, making an orange bandana to flop down in front of her eyes. She pulled the fabric off and stared at it. The little gem it had pinned on it showed it belonged to a Shojin monk.
"Lee made sure your core body temperature was moderated while Udyr insisted to give you the pelt if you needed to be kept warm-"
Morgana interrupted in a mocking imitation of Udyr, "We think her strong enough to live, she only need bear rug and bare hands to live. She good, she need more meat, recover more fast like."
Irelia rolled her eyes in annoyance. She still found the fallen angel incredibly distasteful, but Riven respected her. She would tolerate Morgana for now. "He said it a bit more intellectually than that."
A faint grin played across Riven's face. She looked over at Irelia, her lips moving to apologize for causing so much trouble for them. It was a chance she did not receive due to the Ionian pressing her finger against Riven's lips. "No, no apology. We, the Ionian people, chose to do this."
Morgana's lips parted, showing her fangs in a wicked smile. "Does she know yet?"
Irelia shot a dirty glare at Morgana, her swords humming and pointing themselves at the fallen angel. Of course Riven did not know, she was delirious or unconscious nearly this entire time in the recovery ward.
Irelia continued to stare at Morgana, scowling at the angel for being so blunt. She eventually answered, "...That Swain defeated Keiran Darkwill, and is now the ruler of Noxus."
Riven let out an aggravated sigh. She shook her head and closed her eyes.
"So what now, Riven?" Morgana crossed her arms, a wicker basket hanging off her left elbow. "Gonna give up?"
"No. Never." Riven's eyes flashed open. She stared directly at the fallen angel, her tone confident, her demeanor exuding with conviction. "I had expected such a thing, and it only makes matters more difficult. It does not change my path or what needs to be done."
Irelia shuddered at the horror that Morgana would commit in response to Riven's reply: The fallen angel gave the exile a true, honest and warm smile. "Good answer. Have a cookie." A black tendril snapped into the basket and took out a large, chocolate chip cookie.
"She just woke up, don't give her a cookie. She needs proper food."
"It's a divine cookie, sweetie, relax.
Irelia pointed at the cookie, her brow knitted. "That is chocolate chip, not magical nor divine."
"Are you saying my culinary confections are not divine in taste?" Morgana's smile disappeared. A sneer now evident on her face.
"I could not say so, since I have not ever eaten anything of yours."
"You've..." Morgana tilted her head, processing what Irelia had just said. "Well, you're not lying, but I'm surprised. You eat the cookie then, I'll give her a sticky bun."
"No pastries! She needs..." Irelia stopped and thought of what she was about to say. "Their soup is pretty horrible. And the nurses won't be back for a while..."
"Yesss...Give in to temptation. Do it." Morgana playfully waved the sticky bun in the air.
Irelia winced and looked at Riven, shrugging. "It's your choice: Soggy rice soup and proper recovery or a cookie, or a sticky bun, or whatever."
Riven's answer was a soft chuckle and a shake of her head. She leaned back onto her pillow, her right hand tapping against the hilt of her sword. "So that is my first choice, hm?"
Riven smiled, staring out the window before her, the sunlight spilling into the room. She would have to appreciate this moment for as long as she could, before she started off on her path. Riven would not forget her experiences, not now, not ever.
Her hand tightened around the hilt of the sword. Noxus will be reformed, into the city that it was meant to be.