Welcome back! Thank you for all the kind reviews. I hope this chapter will please you as much as the prologue.
One thing: This story was started before the Shurima took Cassiopeia! See A/N at the end of chapter for details.
Disclaimer: All characters and places mentioned belong to Riot.
All Things Considered
Chapter 1: Requests
Katarina pinched the bridge of her nose so hard she could almost hear the bone cracking.
She stood in the middle of her room at the Institute, facing the door for the past fifteen minutes. It was well past midnight now. Storm was breaking outside, lightning the bare, greyish-white walls from time to time. In the brief moments of light she could see her own reflection in the mirror standing in the corner, her face twisted in an unnamed expression, a mix of determination, anger and disbelief. Was it anxiety she saw in her eyes, too? She quickly scolded herself for that.
What she was about to do was certainly not appealing to her, but it was no reason to be anxious. Katarina was an assasin, after all. She knew how to sneak up on people.
It was shortly after dinner that she had heard a soft knock on her door. Just as she stood up to answer it and tell the person to get the hell out of her face, it opened quickly to reveal the scale-covered bottom half of her sister's body slithering in unceremonously. Katarina moved her gaze to the serpent's face, her own bearing a look of utter disgust.
"What do you want now?" she asked harshly, standing in her sister's way to block her from venturing any further into the room. Cassiopeia was clad in her usual brassiere, which only aggravated Katarina more. She hated it when her sister dressed like a whore, which meant the majority of the time when she wasn't stark naked. The Sinister Blade assumed she even slept like this, but she quickly discarded the thought.
"Can't I just come by to sssay hello?" she answered with a question. Katarina almost kicked her out the very instant she started speaking in that annoying, serpentine manner, but she resisted the urge long enough to at least let her finish. The older Noxian could swear Cassiopeia was acting that way purely to piss her off. The mere sight of her sister was beginning to make her furious.
"Of course not," she barked at the younger Du Couteau, crossing her arms over the leather jacket at her chest. Cassiopeia's face fell for but a moment before the all too familiar smile crept its way back onto her lips. Katarina could almost feel the heat of the rage building inside her guts, but she didn't let it show outside. The only indication of her disgust was the fire in her eyes.
"Yes, of courssse not," Cassiopeia agreed, slithering over to Katarina's desk and planning to rummage through the papers on it, but the redhead quickly put her hand atop the documents. The younger sister frowned at her. "Enough of the false courtesssy. There is indeed sssomething I wanted to ask."
"Quit the hissing," Katarina's gaze was hard when Cassiopeia's surprised eyes landed upon her own. "I know you can talk like a normal person. What do you want?"
She should've just kicked the Serpent's Embrace out at this point. It was a mistake to even let her finish, but Katarina could only blame her own curiosity for that. She glanced at the small parchment in her hand, regretting ever asking her sister for writing the name down. In the pale light of the lantern outside her window, she could barely make out Cassiopeia's elegant handwriting. She folded the piece carelessly and hid it in the safety of her pants' pocket. It would be a long time till she even needs it.
Her door was staring back at her now, its threatening gaze persuading her not to go. The soft bed behind her back spoke of comfort and warmth, things she would soon miss so badly. She glanced at the deep emerald, velvet bedding and had to resist her sudden desire to just lie down and let herself drift somewhere far away in a dreamless sleep. The bag laying beside her dresser looked heavy, far too heavy for her to lift it up, let alone carry it along her journey. Every single thing in her room gathered to stop her from going, to save her from the unnecessary endeavour.
"This is a curse," Cassiopeia started, running her hand down her scaled side. Her voice was free of the mocking manner, almost pleasant to listen to now. Her face was lit dimly with the only candle alight in Katarina's room, making her viridian eyes sparkle and her ruby lips contrast so perfectly with her pale skin.
"You don't say," Katarina responded, watching her sister's face carefully. Cassiopeia's gaze landed upon her again, stunning the older Noxian in place with the anger she didn't expect to see in them. She supposed her own face reflected the emotion, for the serpent looked away hurriedly.
"This is a curse," she repeated and Katarina didn't interrupt her this time. If she needed an ouverture to her request, Katarina may as well grant it before refusing. "And as every curse, it is a work of magic. A simple, primal magic in this case."
"Get to the point."
"It may be reversed," her voice cracked at the end of this sentence and she coughed to hide it from Katarina. It didn't work. "It can always be reversed, and usually in the simplest way possible."
Katarina huffed, a smirk entering her face. It couldn't be that simple, or else her sister would be standing on her own legs now.
"And you're telling me about that because...?"
"I've had a talk with Udyr today," she said and for a moment Katarina considered if she should laugh or cry at that. From what she knew of the man, he liked to consort with the animals. She didn't even want to imagine in what ways exactly, but her guess was her sister would be partially attractive to him. "He spent his youth in the Hirana Monastery, devouring the books from their library. He said there were records of curses similar to mine."
"And, of course, you chose to trust him, because every lunatic seems to be such a reliable source of information."
"No, Katarina," she looked her straight in the eyes once again, this time her gaze unfaltering. "I trusted him, because the name of the very man that brought this fate upon me figured on those records' pages."
Katarina had to take her time to digest her sister's words at that point, and Cassiopeia didn't interrupt her. They stood like this in complete silence, the thick walls of the redhead's room stopping any sounds of the outside world from enetering her domain. She sat down on the chair at her desk, followed by her sister's eyes before the serpent chose to lower herself, coiling the long tail underneath her torso. Katarina looked at it acutely, trying to recall the picture of Cassiopeia before the curse. Pure viridian eyes and full, ruby lips were the easiest to imagine, but they bore a softer look than those she was looking at now. She remembered the soft waves of strawberry-blonde hair falling on frail shoulders, down to her perfect, round breast Katarina was always so envious of. The delicate fingers of her porcelain hands with perfectly shaped nails. Her lower torso, uncovered with scales, so smooth and toned, her silhouette an ideal hourglass. Below her hips, those marvellous legs, an object of desire of everyone regardless of their age and gender. She would always dress attractively, seductively, but never the whorish way she got accustomed to now. If the curse could be reversed in the simplest way possible, Katarina could send her sister back home and get rid of the burning in the back of her mind she felt everytime she cast a look at the serpent.
"I need your help," Cassiopeia's pleading voice cut through her memories, bringing her back to the reality.
"There is a way," she stopped, but Katarina waved her hand at her to continue. This was taking way too much of her time. "I need to find that man. I've had some of our people track him until a few years ago, when I finally gave up," her voice bore a bitter tone. "Last I heard of him, he was in Southern Freljord, near the Demacian border."
"Shouldn't you hire somebody to get him?"
"I'm in process of hiring the best assasin in Noxus."
A smirk entered Katarina's face. Regardless of her current serpentine looks, Cassiopeia could still be convincing in the way she used to be those few years back. She knew well how to manipulate people, a thing she was taught to do ever since she developed some more womanly figure. The smirk faded as a bitter thought overpowered every other ones and the Sinister Blade sucked hard on her teeth. She let herself be a marionette in the serpent's trained hands.
She moved a step closer to the door and forced her legs to continue further, even though her mind screamed in objection. She felt her hand collide with the doorknob to turn it and before she could register what happened, Katarina faced the dark corridor of the Institute of War. Automatically, she turned right and walked a steady pace, her heavy boots making near to none noise on the carpeted floor. She passed a few sets of doors, thinking of the occupants of the Noxian rooms sleeping tightly in their beds before she made a quick stop in front of her sister's chambers. Katarina considered knocking and telling her she's backing out but her feet carried her on, fast and swift. She opened the door leading out of the Noxian wing and continued down the dark halls, her eyes set far ahead. She jumped down a flight of stairs without a single louder breath, speeding her pace up with each passing second. Before she knew it, the anger building inside her guts forced her legs to run, erasing every single thought from her tired brain.
"So you want him dead."
"No," Cassiopeia's lips curled in a devious smile and though Katarina hated to admit it, a single shiver ran down her spine at the sight. "I need a thing he owns. I leave his life to your own twisted imagination."
"I haven't agreed yet," she reminded her. "What is the thing you need? I suppose you'd want me to carry it back to you."
"It's the sword he made me swear upon." Katarina knew the story all too well to ask for any further information. A thing as simple as a broken promise turning her sister's life into a constant mix of madness and pain made the redhead's stomach twist in disgust. She despised Cassiopeia for letting herself be tricked so easily. "I need to destroy it. Udyr told me of records of an ancient artifact bearing power unknown and unimaginable to us. The man holds it as a gem in the sword's hilt," she paused, her face uncertain for a moment. "Or so they say. Destroying it will break this spell."
"Guess a few of those cursed girls would need to thank you."
"They're all dead. The curse killed them."
She might not have had the best relationship with her sister throughout all these years, but hearing this made her heart skip a beat. Katarina never wished her to die, that much was certain to the Noxian herself. The determined look in Cassiopeia's eyes now awoke a sympathy buried deep down Katarina's chest. She stood up quickly, not trusting her facial features enough to face the younger girl.
"I'll do it," she spoke in a voice as neutral as possible, making an incredible effort not to look in her sister's direction. She took a piece of parchment and placed it on the table before Cassiopeia along with a quill. "Write down the man's name. Southern Freljord, you say?" she sighed. "I will need to get through Demacian lands first. This might take ages."
"I will come with you."
"No," Katarina looked sternly at her sister, making the younger Noxian shrink a bit. "You would only slow me down. Besides, I want to pass by unnoticed and your huge, slithering tail is a little hard to conceal. I will need you to cover my ass here while I'm gone. Make up a good lie for me."
"Thank you," said Cassiopeia, handing her the parchment. Katarina only shrugged it off, not even looking at the piece in her hand or in her sister's direction as the younger woman slithered past her, reaching for the door. She knew Cassiopeia had known Katarina would agree to help her the very instant the serpent heard there was a way to return to her normal self and the older Noxian hated herself for her inability to refuse. Deep inside, though she would never admit it to anyone, she wanted to see those strawberry-blonde waves and pale, marble legs again.
"Hey, Cass," she said, a smirk on her face just in time to stop her sister from opening the door. A confused pair of eyes landed upon her face. "Will you be as beautiful as you were?"
"Wh-" Cassiopeia was unable to answer at first, taken aback by the sudden compliment. She cleared her throat and continued in a high-pitched voice. "Yes, I suppose so."
"Good," Katarina's teeth bared in a wicked smile, setting her sister on alert. "Being pretty was the only thing you were ever good at."
She stopped in front of the door she knew led to the room she needed to get in. It was white, decorated with gilded ornaments that almost made her puke this very moment. The Demacian taste for unnecessary decorations unsettled her. She gathered her energy to perform the quick steps technique, smiling ironically at the massive lock and imagining it looking back at her with hopeless eyes. Before she could play the scene out in her mind, she was on the other side of the wall. The inside of the room striked her with how different it was from her own. She knew all the champion rooms at the Institute had the same size and composition, but this one looked like it was taken out of a completely different world. Despite the darkness, she could still recognize the color of the walls as pale pink and white, adorned with thin baby blue stripes, a mix she would never even think of. A big, wooden white dressing table stood next to the door, cluttered with various sorts of perfumes and make-up accesories Katarina may have seen before in her sister's chambers, but never had the chance or will to use. The chair in front of it was occupied with a fluffy stuffed animal. The Noxian felt her stomach twist. This room should belong to a child, not a champion at the Institute of War.
The canopied bed stood on the opposite wall, right next to a giant window similar to that in her own room, only this one's frame was painted white. She moved carefully to avoid making any noise, even though a plush, pink carpet covered the majority of the floor. When she got to the bed, Katarina tugged gently at the canopy, spreading it enough to let some of the moonlight fall on the bed occupant's face.
The girl was soporose and unaware of any intruder beings in her room, her face bearing an expression of a dreamful bliss. Her golden locks were spread across the pink satin pillow, tangled with the frail fingers of her hands. The white nightgown she was clad in slipped from her right shoulder and goosebumps appeared on the exposed creamy skin. Katarina sat down beside her, hovering above the younger girl's body.
"Wake up," she said quietly, but in the silent room her harsh voice sounded louder than the thunders outside the building. She quickly put a hand over Lux's mouth, just in time to prevent her from screaming in fright. Only a muffled moan came out of the Demacian's throat as her eyes tried to make out Katarina's face in the darkness.
"Listen to me," the Noxian was whispering now, but Lux could still recognize her voice. Her body stiffened and she tried to reach her staff, which was supported against the wall just beside her bed. Seeing this, Katarina quickly kicked it away, the rod falling soundlessly on the carpeted floor. "Don't even think about it. I won't do anything to you, just be a good girl."
She had to press harder on the hand holding Lux's mouth as the Demacian tried to sit up. This wasn't nearly as hard as she thought it would be, the blonde wasn't putting up too much of a struggle. Katarina was almost getting comfortable with this whole situation, just sitting like this and waiting for the girl's will to break. She hissed involuntarily in surprise as a set of nails dug into the skin of her free hand before those frail fingers locked themselves around her wrist. She shrugged them off and caught Lux's hand with her left one, her right never leaving the Demacian's mouth.
A sharp pain forced her to take it away as Lux's teeth found their way to her skin. Before the Light Mage could make another move Katarina was on top of her, straddling the blonde's waist and pinning both her arms with her knees. She covered the younger girl's mouth using both of her hands with such force that she was sure the Demacian's lips would be bleeding. The Noxian half expected her to scream anyway, but Lux only looked at her with wide eyes, her chest rising and falling frantically. She was trying hard to breathe in through the mouth Katarina was covering.
"I'll get to the point," the redhead started with a snarl, digging her own nails in the girl's cheeks painfully, but careful enough not to leave any marks. "I need a small favor from you. Demacian pass papers, that is. An order from Lord Crownguard, make it as you wish, just to get through the border. Stop shaking your head, I'll let you speak if you don't try to shout."
Katarina let go of the girl and instead took hold of the daggers at her hips. Lux's eyes were still wide, the sapphire orbs locked on Katarina's hands as she tried to steady her breathing.
"Why," she started quietly, but had to stop to take a deeper breath, blood from her lips smeared over her chin. Katarina's brows furrowed. "Why would you even think I'll help you get inside Demacia? Do you think I'm dumb?"
"Yes," she answered the last question, her teeth gritted. "What I want to do there is none of your concern. Like I said, I only need to get through the Demacian border."
"Then do it as you've always done, Noxian."
"That's illegal," the end of the sentence turned into a short laugh. Lux felt the blood in her veins froze when she saw the look in Katarina's eyes. "We have a truce now, our lands. Wouldn't want to break it for my personal issues."
"And if I refuse?" Lux's breathing was slower now, but her voice was still shaking. Katarina pretended to think about her question for a moment, gaining the much appreciated factor of suspense as Lux's eyes pierced through her face, trying to read her thoughts. Mockingly, Katarina put a finger to her chin and lifted her head to look out the window. A thunderbolt lightened the sky for a while, exposing the Noxian's wicked expression as she hunched above Lux with her dagger next to the younger girl's tender throat.
"Then I may consider breaking it with a bang."
The storm died out, but the air was still thick with the scent of rain. Katarina sat perched on her windowsill, looking down at the pavement below her window. It wasn't a long jump, really - safe enough for her to land correctly, but the stones were mossy and wet and she could slip on them easily. She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of night. Crickets were coming out of their hiding places and started their annoying noise, some frogs were croaking in a nearby pond. A lone nightingale started its song, but it soon died out in the wind. A howl could be heard from the woods, the wolves seeking out their nightly prey.
A single knock on the door almost made her jump out the window. She got up to answer it, slowly, taking her time knowing the girl wouldn't go away. The Noxian postponed the moment of opening the door, feeling the bile in her mouth again at the mere thought of facing the blonde. Finally, she swung it open, startling the girl outside to the point of gasping. Katarina pulled her inside hurriedly. She didn't want anybody to see a Demacian in the Noxian wing.
"Be quick with it," she said, lightning a candle on her desk. Lux's lips were still bruised from their previous encounter, but they weren't bleeding anymore. She lied down a roll of parchment, tied with a broad, blue ribbon. Katarina looked at it doubtfully for a second before reaching out for the paper. She held it with the tips of her fingers, as if the damned thing could catch fire at any possible moment.
"It won't bite," Lux started, but was quickly silenced with a glare from the Noxian. Katarina untied the ribbon, throwing it carelessly on the desk and unrolled the parchment.
"Arina Steelblade," she read out loud. "Very funny. A servant of the Crownguard family," she glared at the Demacian, but the younger girl was looking at the floor. "A summon signed by the Lord Crownguard himself. A whole lot of unimportant text now. Away with learning purpose. Doesn't speak best of your Demacian universities, huh. And there's a seal, too."
"My father gave me a pendant with our coat of arms when I came of age. It's a little smaller than his signet ring, but it's really hard to notice, especially if you can't compare the two."
Katarina looked at the seal closely. Just as Lux said, she would have never seen the difference between this and the one the blonde's father would make. A slight pang of respect for the younger girl crossed her heart, but she quickly shunned it. The Noxian looked at her guest once again, noticing her fumbling with another, similar roll of parchment in her hands.
"What's with this one?" Katarina said suddenly, motioning to the roll and Lux jumped in surprise. She made an attempt to hide it in her pocket before she realized it was pointless now that the older girl has seen it. Wordlessly, she passed it over to the Noxian, who took the roll with a questioning look.
"This is mine," Lux started before Katarina even undid the royal blue ribbon. "I'm coming with you."
Had it been any other time, Katarina would have laughed heartily at something so absurd, but now she just stared at the younger girl with a bewildered expression. She was already clad in a purple, hooded cloak along with some leggings and leather boots. She had a pouch strapped on to a rather wide belt on her hips and a small bag was resting at her feet. Katarina didn't notice them before, she was too occupied with the papers to even look at the girl. She balled her fists.
"No," the Noxian stated simply, looking at Lux with fire in her eyes. "You're not coming with me. Where do you get those crazy ideas?"
"I agreed to help you-"
"I only needed your stupid papers."
"Those papers are not enough!" Lux raised her voice and caught Katarina's hand in mid-air, as the older girl was already reaching to cover her mouth. The Noxian was startled for a moment, but she quickly yanked her arm free. "Demacian papers won't make you any less Noxian than you are. Your manner of speaking is so heavily influenced that anyone would know where you're from the instant your mouth would open. And as far as I know, my family doesn't hire Noxian servants. Nobody would believe you."
Katarina looked at her sternly, her teeth gritted. The younger girl was right, it occured to her now.
"Then make other papers," she said slowly, watching the light play on Lux's face. "Not a servant. Something else."
"You're Noxian!" she exclaimed, and Katarina felt her eye twitch. "The only Noxians allowed in Demacia are your diplomats, and even my father doesn't have the power to summon them! There are so many papers you would have to have on you that I can't even begin to count them, not to mention I don't know how they should look like. Besides, they would have to be signed by the King Jarvan III himself-"
"Alright," she put a hand up to silence her. "No Noxians allowed, I get it. How is your delightful presence going to help me, then?"
"I'm going to be the one speaking. You'd have to hide your face, too. I doubt the guards won't recognize the Sinister Blade."
"And you?" she asked, earning a surprised look. "Wouldn't they recognize the Lady of Luminosity?"
"The Lady of Luminosity doesn't have a distinctive scar across her face."
Katarina looked at the papers spread on her desk. The second one read Anna Steelblade, another servant of the Crownguard family.
"Why would you want to do that?" she asked, irritation written all over her face.
"Because I agreed to help you. I used the Crownguards' coat of arms and forged my father's signature. If they caught you on the border with false pass papers, my family would be in danger."
Katarina walked back to the window, looking down on the pavement again. Her bag was lying under the windowsill, ready for the journey ahead. She heard the rustle of parchment as Lux was tying it back together.
"Only to the border," Katarina said quietly, turning around to face her. The blonde had already put the papers in her waist-pouch and secured it with a leather strap. "To the border, and then you're gone. You're not slowing me down and you're not whining. You're not saying anything at all, unless I ask you a question. Understand?"
Lux nodded her head shortly and crouched to pick her bag up before getting over to the Noxian. Katarina tied her own sack around her shoulder and she didn't even look at the blonde before jumping out of the window. She landed steadily with a soft splat of the wet soil beneath her boots, the scent of nightly mist filling her nostrils. The air around her was fresh and moist after the downfall and it helped to soothe her mind a bit. She heard another, louder splat behind her back and she knew the Demacian has joined her. Katarina turned around to see the girl still on the ground, massaging the knee she had to hit on the pavement. The Noxian shook her head in disbelief before pulling on her hood and putting a finger to her mouth, silencing whatever words were trying to escape the other girl's lips. The redhead turned around, motioning Lux to follow her.
They headed for the woods surrounding the Institute's grounds. Just a day's journey to the border.
Katarina cursed under her breath.
All things considered, she shouldn't have agreed to help Cass.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Please leave a review if you enjoyed this chapter (or if you think it totally sucks). As for your question, Luxius - I intend to make this a friendship fic, though I do not exclude any possible pairings.
Regarding Cassiopeia: I started writing this story while she still had her old, 'Freljord' lore. In essence, it had her swearing upon a weird man's dagger that she would not repeat what he told her to anyone, breaking her word and then being turned into the half-snake thing she is as a result.