It's been so long since I've written I feel like I don't know how to write anymore. Thanks for all the reviews and support as I get it together :3 Also, sorta in the market for a beta reader. You'd get juicy plot details (which would kinda ruin the story and stuff but hey). And by market I mean volunteer.
In order to feel that I'm doing this story about the Void justice, I've been reading HP Lovecraft's stories, specifically those around the Cthulhu mythos since the Void stuff was based around this.
Cover was sparse through the field but Katarina's strength lay in her speed. With scarcely even the rustle of the tall grass to mark her passage, she covered the ground between her and her target, the source of the trail.
A quick look, she reminded herself as she approached the black-clad figure. Her daggers slid noiselessly from their sheaths and the assassin crouched behind a nearby tree to observe.
He seemed to be pacing nervously, muttering quietly to himself, "-don't even try then the consequences..." The blue of his skin was overshadowed by the setting sun glinting off the metal surfaces of the armor covering most of his body, giving him an ethereal glow. He was a Champion, she knew; she'd seen him around the Institute. But she could not place his name or power and she was intent on satisfying her curiosity. With a deep breath she flexed her limbs in preparation to dash to a tree closer to him, nearly thirty meters away from her position.
She would have to be fast...
Just as she was about to explode from her hiding spot, the air around him seemed to swallow him and he vanished. Realization struck her along with his name as a soft distortion of sound to her right alerted her to his reappearance. Tension was already coiled inside her like a spring and with only a split second to react, the assassin acted on instinct and panic and leapt.
The hum of energy split the air and a blade glowing with the same violet particles burst into life on Kassadin's wrist as he arched away from her haphazard attack.
"You..." he breathed as he staggered back from her advance. "Has Noxus bought into Malzahar's side as well?"
"What? No, I- what are you doing out here, Kassadin?" she stuttered, directing the point of her blade toward him. "Your lot doesn't come around here very much."
The eyes behind his mask narrowed and the hint of uncertainty made its way into his voice. "You do not seek my death?"
Katarina scowled and jabbed her blade a little closer to the mage. "Well, I will kill you if you try anything stupid, so tell me, why are you running around out here?"
He bowed his head. "We do not have time for this. You will know soon enough, Miss DuCouteau. Until then, I apologize." And in a split second, a flick of his wrist silenced her muscles which were screaming for action, causing her to fumble her blades. Eyes wide and fixed on him, the assassin strained against the limiting magic he had place on her, fingers twitching uncontrollably in her clenched fists.
"In a few seconds... you better be running..." she ground out.
Kassadin did not seem phased by her threat. With one hand he squeezed her shoulder, while the other gripped her face, thumb beneath her eye and the rest of his fingers pressing into her head. "You will forget you saw me," he commanded. "You will make haste back to the Institute of War." The mage winced as Void magic began to flow through his fingertips, taxing his strength. Beneath him, the tension wound in Katarina's body dissipated, leaving her relaxed beneath his hands. "You will return to your room and... and act as though nothing happened." Then with a short cry he jerked back his hand, cutting off the flow of magic.
"Miss DuCouteau...?" he ventured.
Katarina looked at him and blinked, and without a word she turned on heel and began toward the Institute at a brisk pace. Watching her retreating form, Kassadin slumped with a sigh.
"I do not know if the path I choose is right, but there is too much at stake to dwell on it." Then, seeming to find some resolve, he squared his shoulders and disappeared into the space between worlds.
It was midnight by the time Garen trudged back into his room, but Katarina was still awake, sharpening the dozens of knives spread around her on the floor. When he entered, she acknowledged him with a soft sound and began to carefully place her weapons back into their holsters on her belts.
"Your sister's fine," she informed him while he started the process of pulling off his armor. "Says she got attacked by Evelynn after she left the assembly, and that was who told her Ezreal was in danger."
"Evelynn?" he questioned, voice muffled as he pulled his padded leather vest over his head. "As in Evelynn with the pink hair from the Shadow Isles?"
"That's the only Evelynn I know," she retorted. "There were some pretty deep scratches on her neck and she seemed really shaken up throughout the whole interview. Seems she got the drop on her pretty good."
Garen was already headed to the door before she finished speaking. "She's not here," she interjected as she dashed to intercept him. "I had Niko take her somewhere. She'll be better off where she's at now."
The Demacian looked confused, but the confusion quickly gave way to irritation. "You had her taken to Bilgewater."
"She's a grown woman," the red-head snapped. "Besides, you think can keep her safer here? At least no one will know where she's at for the time being. It's only for a few days anyway. Talon was going to head back to Noxus in a few days."
"She'll be in-? Damn it, Katarina, you think Noxus is going to help her feel less she could die at any minute?" he growled.
"How can you still possibly believe that Noxus is as bad as all that?" she exclaimed. "She was begging me to ask him to come back even though he can't yet, so what was I supposed to do? She will be safe and if you're that worried, we can go back to Noxus and meet her there!"
For a moment the two glared at each other, unwilling to speak. Then Garen shifted uncomfortably and sagged onto the bed cradling his face in his hands. "Katarina... what am I going to do with you?"
"I would appreciate a thank you," she grumbled. "And I'm sorry you don't like Talon but he wouldn't let anything happen to Lux and you know it."
"Fine, thank you," he muttered, sounding not-at-all sincere. "I still want to meet her in Noxus."
The red-head waved her hand dismissively and sat on the floor by his feet to resume sheathing her knives. "Whatever makes you happy, sweetie," she said, voice falsely high-pitched and dripping with an uncharacteristic niceness.
He wrinkled his nose. "Don't do that. It's creepy."
An evil giggle was the only response she provided. They finished their tasks in a comfortable silence, but it was as Katarina rose to place her belts of knives on the bedside table that Garen noticed the stormy expression on her face. He considered not asking; after all, their conversation had finally ended on a light note and it seemed a shame to ruin it. But when she stood, staring contemplatively at the tabletop, for another minute without moving he finally sighed, "What's on your mind?"
She jerked her head in surprise as if she'd forgotten he was there. "Oh. Just... I found out what my missing memory was. I spoke with the summoners after Lux did."
Garen's mouth dropped open in surprise. "R-right. I'd forgotten, with all the things that happened," he admitted. "So, what...?"
"It was Kassadin," she blurted angrily. "I found him wandering around behind the Institute muttering about whether or not he should do something- which turned out to be to try and kidnap Ezreal. He didn't know I'd been following him. I could have incapacitated him and saved everyone all this trouble but I... hesitated. I panicked. So he used some kind of weird magic on me that made me go back like I never even saw him."
Garen tried to take her hand which she promptly pulled away. "Katarina," he murmured. "No one could have know. Besides, you would have gotten revoked from just about everything for killing another Champion without cause."
"It's not just that," she corrected. "I wasn't strong enough to fight his stupid magic. I hesitated. I knew he was being suspicious but I didn't listen to my gut and look what happened. It's times like that when I wonder if all this change has really been for the better."
A feeling of dread bloomed in his gut like a knife wound. "What are you saying? So you didn't jump to kill someone who hadn't done anything yet, it doesn't make you less of a fighter or a Noxian or whatever," he argued desperately.
She flashed him an incredulous look. "He could have killed me; I just got lucky. Do you see what I'm saying? I wouldn't have ever given him the chance before I-" Abruptly she stopped, biting her lips into a line of silence.
Garen fixed her with a hard stare that she wouldn't meet. "Before what, Kat?"
"Before I met you," she finished through gritted teeth.
The soldier clenched his fingers into fists, digging crescent moons into his white-knuckled hands. "You don't mean that. After everything that we've done you really think it wasn't worth it? There is more to life than fighting, even if it doesn't seem like it all the time and you know it!"
"And when we have to fight but can't?" she shot back. "What then?"
"I'm not afraid to die if it means I actually got to live my own life for a change," Garen asserted. "I thought you felt the same way." Again he reached for her hand, and he wasn't sure if he was more surprised that she held it tight or at its slight tremble. "Kat?"
The assassin pressed her forehead into his shoulder and buried her nose in his chest. "I'm losing my edge. And now that things are good, all I can think of is how easy it'll be gone if I can't keep up. Nothing ever happens in the League, much less in the real world. Sparring is good but it's not a replacement for the real thing."
"We are thirty. People in our field don't typically make it much longer than this anyway."
"Is that supposed to be encouraging?" she sniffed. "Because it's not."
Garen let out a choked sound somewhere between a laugh and a sigh. "I don't know what I'm trying to say, I guess. I just don't want you to be worried about this; things are different now. But you're right that things don't happen much and we're not at the Institute enough to be part of what few matches there are. We could be, if you wanted. Or... or I have another idea," he added with a grimace.
Katarina held him at arm's length, a suspicious gleam in her eyes. "What is it?"
The Demacian cleared his throat and after a thump on the chest from the woman in his arms requesting that he speed up, he said, "Ezreal's expedition."
Her face fell. "What."
"I mean, it'll be dangerous, what with the desert and bandits and who knows what else," he stammered. "I know you might think it's a waste of time, and I don't disagree with you there, but it could be a way for us to get authorization to do something that's actually, I don't know, exciting."
She considered it for a moment, the skepticism on her face slowly giving way to interest. "Maybe," she conceded, but from the fiery glow that seemed to catch in her eyes, Garen knew she was enthralled with the prospect. "I thought you didn't want anything to do with exciting anymore," she teased.
"I may want to find a more permanent home and quit politics but that doesn't mean I don't want to do things ever again," he retorted with a grin. "Besides, you provide more excitement than this one man can take sometimes."
He'd never been so happy to be on the receiving end of one of her fists.
The air between them cleared, Garen returned to halfheartedly removing and storing his armor before giving up entirely once Katarina climbed into bed. Letting the rest of it thump unceremoniously to the floor in a disorganized mess, the giant of a man joined her eagerly. She gave a few good-natured grumbles as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into his chest, but dropped the pretense in favor of a contented sigh.
"Do you ever think about leaving?"
"Aren't you full of fun topics tonight?"
This time when Kassadin woke, the throbbing pain had subsided to a dull ache and the unusually quiet buzz of the Void came as less of a shock. His yellow eyes flared bright for a moment while he sat up and flexed in an attempt to test the limits of the magic restraint, then faded into a normal golden hue as the runes about the room served their purpose.
"Try all you like but you won't be breaking out of here, Kassadin," Montrose's voice called through the door. He sounded out of breath, as if he'd just run there.
"I know, summoner," he replied testily. "I have no intention of non-compliance."
His reassurance must have be what he needed to hear because following his admission the door to his cell swung open and the purple clad summoner shut it behind him. "We must talk. I would much rather you tell me everything than to have to go sorting through your mind, which I will do regardless, however, I guarantee that it will be more pleasant if you're a willing assistant."
"You do not want to go tramping through my mind, Montrose," the mage warned. "You have no idea the strength of the Void within me. Even repressed as it is by this room, the things you will hear may drive you to insanity." With a slight smirk he added, "Though that may exactly what is necessary for you to believe me that Icathia must not be searched for."
The senior summoner cocked his head in what was supposed to be a thoughtful manner but which only served to make him appear arrogant. "I've been inside your mind before, Kassadin. Any voices you claim to hear are all your own. But now tell me, what is it about this mysterious city- which only you and Malzahar have claimed to see- that should remain hidden?"
"Did you know, in all your studies of the history of Runeterra and Valoran, that Icathia was once a preeminent city of the Southern Lands?" Kassadin posed. "With structure and magic and material so vastly different than anything found on the continent?" When the summoner said nothing, he continued, "Icathia was gifted with these things from the beings beyond, and so they worshiped the Void."
Montrose huffed, "And if our most ancient annals have no history of this, then how can you possibly know it?"
Kassadin shook his head as if in disbelief. "Because I have seen glimpses of it and heard of it every day of my life since I made the mistake of searching for Icathia. If this boy Ezreal seeks the city, he will bring ruin upon us all."
"Were you going to kill him?"
"If that is what it would take," Kassadin said, his jaw squared stubbornly. "That amulet must never be allowed to reach the city. He does not know what power it holds and how much it helps Runeterra."
An irritated disbelief settled onto the summoner's face. "Oh really? How so?"
Finally, the Void Walker seemed to balk, his face betraying his discomfort. "Well... you are certain this room is secured?"
"No one can enter, leave, or eavesdrop without the use of very strong magic," Montrose assured. "Why?"
"Malzahar's followers," he answered hesitantly. "You could not sense the presence of the Void-touched at the assembly?"
For once, the older man looked abashed. "I… no. No, I wasn't aware. Wait, Malzahar also believes this about the amulet?"
"I pray to the stars he has no knowledge of its actual existence," Kassadin said. "But he knows of it and its power, yes."
The old summoner ran a lined hand over his face. "Right. Then, this amulet, what does it do besides give Ezreal the ability to shoot things?"
Kassadin shot him an annoyed glare. "What Ezreal uses it for is a laughable display of its power. The amulet is an artifact leftover from the fall of Icathia, powerful against those of Void magic. Those like Malzahar on the side of the Void would love nothing more than to see it destroyed. If he takes it to where the Void is strongest, this becomes a very real possibility. Better to just avoid the possibility and disallow this fool's errand to begin with."
"OK, say I believe you about all this," Montrose proposed. "Despite what the public may think, the Institute has searched for Icathia before and we haven't found even a hint of its existence. What makes you think he would find it?"
A sort of rueful smile crossed his face. "The Void wants that amulet and it will guide him if he is allowed to continue. Have you not listened to anything I have said?"
"Kassadin, I will be honest with you, this is a very difficult tale to swallow. The Institute has researched and found nothing to indicate that the Void is something to be concerned about, prior to this find by Ezreal," the summoner insisted. "So if you think he'll actually find it, why wouldn't we support this expedition? We need more evidence that two possibly crazy mages and a few monsters can provide. This is in our best interests, a chance to learn about the Void and its magic."
"You cannot support this excursion!" Kassadin cried leaping to his feet.
The summoner snapped his fingers, freezing the Champion in place and stealing the sound from his lips. Ignoring the muffled protests that sounded from his throat, Montrose placed his hand at Kassadin's temple and shut his eyes.
Darkness assaulted his vision, then the images of the afternoon: the assault on Ezreal, an interaction with the Sinister Blade, fever dreams of bizarre structures and terrifying monsters. They passed Montrose by with increasing speed- the tragic loss of his daughter, his Judgment- until he had dispassionately unwound the last twenty years of Kassadin's memories for one moment. Entranced, he watched a younger man, tan skinned and blistered from weeks in the harsh Shurima sun stumbling across the sands in a state close to delirium. The cold desert night saw him shivering under thin cotton layers and muttering failed spells of warming from between cracked lips.
Then, by fate or accident, Kassadin stumbled as he reached the crest of a large dune and began to slide uncontrolled down the windward side, coming to rest at the base of a crumbling black obelisk. Staggering, he rose to his feet and surveyed the city before him. The geometry was impossible, as if an artist had painted it on the landscape with all the wrong perspectives. Statues of creatures alien to Runeterra were sporadically placed throughout the winding, angular paths of the obsidian stone. Though he looked on in his mind's eye, the summoner felt a sickness welling in his gut, a feeling of dread.
Beneath the stars of other worlds, before a city that couldn't possibly exist, Kassadin began to laugh.
With a grunt, Montrose clutched his hand to his chest and took a few dizzy steps back from the mage. He opened his mouth, said nothing, then closed it.
"You have felt the Void and seen the city," Kassadin murmured. "You know you cannot allow this search."
Summoner Montrose shook his head and turned on heel to stride from the room in a flourish of purple cloth. "If it exists and is the source of the Void magic, then we must," he said before the door clanged shut behind him.
He could not shut out the sound of Kassadin's anguished howl that echoed down the hall, nor the faintest sound of whispers that seemed to prickle at the back of his brain. He shook his head again and told himself it was the wind.
Caitlyn was insistent that she stay with Ezreal the rest of the night in the attached room, much to his chagrin. She was scarcely older than he and they rarely saw each other, yet she treated him like a child. Granted, it was warranted at least some of the time and in moments like this, he was a little grateful that someone was looking out for him.
The floor creaked under his feet.
OK, he admitted as he took a deep breath to still his racing heart, I'm really glad she's here.
He used magic to shift the rest of the way to his bed.
This is pathetic, man, he chastised. What if Lux could see you now? With a derisive shake of his head, the explorer stripped off his outer clothes and dove under the covers. "Well she'll never know," he muttered aloud.
Startled, the blonde froze with in the midst of removing his shirt. "Caitlyn?" he called hopefully. "Was that you?"
There came no reassuring answer from the other room.
"Okaaay," he declared with a nod. He fumbled around for a moment in the pocket of his pants before pulling out a small pill which he shoved in his mouth and swallowed. "It's just because I'm not sleeping well enough," he chanted, though the slight tremor in his voice betrayed his failing belief in the statement. "And because I get too focused on one thing at a time. No other explanations."
Ezreal slid between the sheets and pulled them up to his chin. Preparing for a desert exploration, he recited. High heat and aridity. Avoid direct sunlight… He had barely made it to, 'low nighttime temperature,' before his medication took effect and pulled him into a deep slumber. Once he was asleep, the questionably voice-like sounds that seemed to plague him lately would cease, sometimes for a few days. The healers said he should probably try for more quality sleep, but in his dreams, the explorer ran through twisting paths of black stone, searching and searching for something he could never find. He twitched uneasily in his sleep.
You are right to be afraid.