Previous Update: The Terror of the Void
by CupcakeTrap (edited by Montesque64 and basically everyone else)
This will need some further revision once I’ve completed the other lore. Still, hope you enjoy!
The curator notices you looking into an enchanted painting. It is entitled Against Apocalypse, and depicts a great battle in Shurima Desert between several Valoranian nations and the Void. Its most striking element is a chaotic sky slashed with angular cuts of marbled purple and black, filled with sinister yellow eyes gazing down on the desert. Seeing that you appear amenable to conversation, and taking note of your purple robes, she pushes her spectacles up onto the bridge of her nose and gestures to the painting.
“Ah, the Battle of Shurima of 24 CLE. A fateful day, to be sure. Presumably you’re acquainted with the events depicted, Summoner? It was during the Hextech Revolution: after the war in Shon-Xan, but before they discovered Nyroth and … well, you know how that went.”
In fact, you do. You’re old, much older than you look … and much older, obviously, than she realizes you are. But you say nothing as she continues.
“So, the Hextech Revolution. Void-touched dark sand — more properly pyrikhos — was found in Shurima, and that’s when it all started. Until that time, hextech was relatively rare. You needed an arcane focus to power the device, and most arcane foci are very particular; you can’t just slap, say, a firegem into a hextech revolver in place of a hemophage’s fang and expect it to work! But pyrikhos … not only was there a ton of the stuff, but it was so incredibly versatile, almost like pure mana. Merricurry gave her talk at the Institute, you know the one that people always quote —”
She adopts an exaggerated scowl and mimics a booming male voice with a Demacian accent, “Madame Merricurry, you are insane!” She retorts, in a high-pitched Yordlish tone, “I am Doctor Merricurry and I am RIGHT!” She smacks her fist into her palm at the right moment for dramatic effect.
She laughs, as do you; you saw the docudrama just a couple weeks ago. They always work that scene into those.
She continues. “And after her talk, people realized … you could build anything with this pyrikhos. On a mass-production scale. Can you imagine how tempting that was?”
Her eyes turn to the painting. Its magical pigments shimmer as though still wet. “Everyone got excited. Zaun. Piltover. Bandle City. Demacia wasn’t happy, but when it saw Zaun building the HexKorps — remember that until that time Zaun was pretty much just a zany sidekick to Noxus, not a world power — it decided that it needed Piltover to build something comparable, or else once Noxus recovered from Shon-Xan there was going to be a new world order under Noxus and Zaun. So it grudgingly went along, meanwhile desperately searching for a kind of holy kill-switch, a purification spell, that it could invoke if things got out of hand. Well, they did. Ceruleana, the ocean spirit — some people even called her a goddess back then; you know, the one with the Mirrorwater connection? — came bursting into Jarvan III’s castle hall and started raving that the world was about to end. She said that Zaun’s largest mine, Mine Six, had a Void rift forming inside of it. She said they had to destroy it immediately, by any means necessary, or it would break Runeterra apart and pull the fragments into the Void. This wasn’t just another Void War: it was an apocalypse on the horizon.”
She gestures to the depiction of Jarvan III atop his white pegasus. “They say King Jarvan wasn’t sure what to do. Demacia was a founding member of the League, after all. This would be a direct violation of a League peace edict. The fallout could have destroyed the League. And this was just a prophecy: maybe she was wrong, maybe she was lying. So he spoke with his advisors, and with Demacia’s Summoners and Champions, for hours. At the end of it, he marched the army into Shurima.”
It’s almost as though the painting is listening, drinking up the words. A wave of dry heat radiates from its surface, and you catch the scent of Shuriman sand, laced with the stench of blood and the nauseating tang of Void magic.
“The Demacians demanded that Zaun let them use their holy magic to exorcise the mine and destroy the dark sand inside. Zaun wasn’t buying it. They thought they understood the Void, and up until that point the worst that had happened was the Void War: pretty awful, but no apocalypse. They weren’t even really buying that Demacia — Demacia — was going to start an illegal war over this crazy prophecy. But Jarvan gave the order to attack after all. So Zaun brought in Noxian reinforcements, Voidlings came pouring out of the mine, which probably should have been a hint that there really was something going on, and long story short the Demacian army was routed. That’s when Malzahar showed up, the sky went all purple and yellow, and everyone realized that Ceruleana had been right. So suddenly, what was left of Demacia’s army rallied and came charging back in, this time to fight alongside the Noxians and Zaunites who had slaughtered their comrades just minutes ago, and they all together made a truly desperate push to break into the mine, take down Malzahar, and, you know, save the world.”
She pauses, then laughs and gives a little bow. “Sorry, Summoner. It’s just one of my favorites. Ah, to have seen that day! Anyway, I do need to get going, but if you’d like to know more …” She runs her fingertip along a row of guidebooks, plucks one out, and flips it to a page somewhere near the middle. “There you are. An article written to accompany the painting. Enjoy! Just be careful … you can really get lost in there. The painting, I mean. The article’s good, too, but nobody’s ever gone nuts after drinking a whole case of ThaumaKola and staring at it for fifteen hours, like poor Summoner Yokozar.”
She bows again, then walks past you down the hall. The article she’s given you is titled—
Against Apocalypse, by Mizara of New Navori.
First published 77 CLE; excerpt reprinted here with permission.
and it begins—
Ionian metaphysics and philosophy discuss many balances, but describe only one as truly fundamental. This is the cosmic balance between Order and Chaos, between Harmony and Discord, between the Word and the Howl. Mortal existence can only be sustained within a narrow range along this continuum; outside these bounds lie alien realities beyond our comprehension, whose merest shadows bring madness and death. Runeterra’s existence is but a reflection of one small point of self-asserting balance.
Demacia strained this balance when it invoked the power of the ocean spirit Ceruleana to impose Order upon Valoran with its fleet. It soon snapped back into equilibrium, and the shock split the cursed sands of Icathia apart. From this rift Malzahar called forth the demons of the Void, who trampled the currents of life and death as they rushed out; a dark alliance of Discord was formed as Karthus next roused the tortured dead to drag the living into their disturbed graves. Valoran’s combined strength broke Discord’s onslaught at the gates of Noxus, but still the Icathian wound bled. Its vile ichor seeped out and poisoned much Noxian land; the starving masses fled to Ionia, and Discord rejoiced as fresh blood was spilled in a new war between these old enemies.
In 24 CLE, the Void’s contamination reached Shurima, then merely ruins where a proud civilization of arcane wisdom most refined had once stood. The effects in Shurima were different than they had been in Noxus: the Void ooze mixed with the forgotten enchantments that still haunted the Shuriman ruins, creating vast seams of purple sand charged with arcane power. This “dark sand”, called “pyrikhos” in Shuriman, proved a versatile and abundant hextech energy source which made the mass production of hextech devices possible and fueled the so-called Hextech Revolution. The theoretical breakthroughs that enabled this revolution, most notably the brilliant discoveries of yordle scientist Merricurry, re-cast the Void as simply a new source of power posing acceptable levels of risk — provided that suitable precautions were taken.
Demacia, long fearful that no such precautions would suffice, chose to act when Ceruleana appeared before them with a dire prophecy. She told of a new Void rift opening within one of Zaun’s largest dark sand mines, which if not sealed shut would soon devour all of Runeterra. She insisted that Runeterra’s only hope was the immediate destruction of the mine, and the neutralization of the Void-touched dark sand within. Reluctant to violate the laws of the League, King Jarvan III nonetheless ordered Demacia’s armies forth. In the battle that followed, Zaun and its ally Noxus defeated the combined forces of Demacia, Piltover, and Bandle City with much loss of life. No sooner had Demacia been driven into retreat than Malzahar appeared to proclaim that Runeterra’s time had come at last. The slaughter of the Demacian wounded stopped as all turned to see the stars vanish, replaced with the blinking yellow eyes of ravenous beasts from beyond.
The apocalypse had begun, as Ceruleana had foretold. These five nations of Valoran — Zaun, Noxus, Demacia, Piltover, and Bandle City — banded together in a desperate assault upon the mine. As their armies held the flanks, these nations’ Champions stormed the mine to defeat Malzahar and close the rift, praying that it was not already too late.
At great cost—
Your eyes catch a strange glimmer from the painting. You look up from the page and find your eyes fixed upon the figure of Viktor, the Machine Herald, taking cover from the Void onslaught just outside the mine.
You taste copper and electricity.
The booklet falls from your hand.
You stand beneath a purple and yellow sky and feel the world coming apart.
Viktor crouched beside the mine’s entrance, positioned to present a minimal target profile. Merricurry cowered behind him, holding a thaumex in her shaking paws and writing something in a little notebook, presumably because her organic nervous system was much too badly disrupted by adrenaline to reliably record even simple numerical data without resort to such crude means.
Every few seconds he heard the crack of Caitlyn’s solid-projectile rifle from her perch atop the entryway as she sniped into the Void swarm. Merricurry jerked back with each shot, as though fighting the temptation to curl up into a ball: a primitive threat-response which would be of no use should a flash of Void energy strike her position. Such a blast landed only a few meters away, turning the sand to glass.
No, her obliteration would be a significant loss, perhaps an unacceptable one given the present circumstances. He tuned his deflection field to ensure it would also encompass her. He set a visual sentry subprotocol to sweep for incoming threats while his core probabilistic cogitator evaluated the potential futures before him.
There would only be one chance. Correct planning was essential. Only his evolved mind could make the proper considerations, unclouded by emotion, instinct, or prejudice. He would save these fools, despite themselves, for the sake of the Glorious Evolution.
MEMORY STORAGE ENTRY: DEADLINE/PLANETARY/SHURIMA EVENT 104B
QUERY: PROBABILISTIC INTERVAL: TIMEFRAME FOR DESTRUCTION OF RUNETERRA?
QUERIED MECHANISM: TOTAL DESTABILIZATION OF VOID RIFT IN MINE 006
SUBQUERY: PROCESSING INTERNAL THAUMEX DATA
SUBQUERY COMPLETE: PHASE VARIANCE AT 7 UNITS PER SECOND
SUBQUERY: MODELING THAUMIC MATRIX COLLAPSE SCENARIO
SUBQUERY COMPLETE: TERTIARY, SECONDARY MATRIX COLLAPSE CONFIRMED
SUBQUERY COMPLETE: PRIMARY MATRIX LESS THAN 8300 UNITS FROM PHASE LOSS
QUERY COMPLETE: DESTRUCTION OF RUNETERRA WITHIN 00:20 MINUTES
INITIATING ADAPTIVE COUNTDOWN
> COUNTDOWN: 00:19:59
This, the Glorious Evolution could not survive. His death, yes. The death of up to 75% of his acolytes, yes. But no such progress could be sustained in the infinite entropy of the Void.
TASK: PREVENT DESTRUCTION OF RUNETERRA
He would seal the rift at any cost. The Glorious Evolution demanded it! He spared a glance to the side, where Morgana, Jayce, that lumbering idiot Mundo, Renekton, and others were arguing, but soon terminated that audio input process thread as a waste of resources. He would resolve this matter, and they would either follow or get out of his way.
SUBTASK 01: MAINTAIN PRIMARY THAUMIC MATRIX
IMPLEMENT: 219 SUMMONER-CLASS ENTITIES, RITUAL CIRCLE CONFIGURATION
The first step was to maintain the failing primary thaumic matrix long enough to close the rift. Despite his studies of the Solar Codex, retrieved with Xerath’s assistance from its pocket dimension, a detailed analysis of the Shuriman enchantments making up this matrix was beyond his capabilities. What was clear was that the matrix was the only force holding back the Void, and that it was failing.
Hundreds of Summoners circled the mines, including two of his favored machine acolytes, N-6732 and 333LOM. They lent their strength to Nasus as he chanted something in Shuriman. Archaic magic, dilute and imprecise, but all that was available. His thaumic resonance sensors mapped the salient effects of these primitive incantations. They locked down the magnitude of the field, but also carved deep fault lines into the local ethereal foundations. Should the incantation falter, the rift would explode out along these lines, resulting in the nearly instantaneous collapse of the primary matrix and the destruction of Runeterra. For now, it held.
> COUNTDOWN: 00:19:55
He turned next to the hordes of Void demons flooding in from the warpgates. The portals had been bound to the Void’s extradimensional signature and locked open, resulting in the continuous replenishment of hostile forces and preventing the use of the warpgate network to deliver allied reinforcements.
The Demacian line was breaking. A brief analysis of their movement showed obvious signs of muscular fatigue and psychological failure.
THREAT: VOID ASSAULT ON RITUAL CIRCLE
DESTRUCTION OF RITUAL CIRCLE WILL RESULT IN PRIMARY MATRIX COLLAPSE
RESULT SUMMARY: FAILURE OF SUBTASK 01
CONSEQUENCE: FAILURE OF TASK: PREVENT DESTRUCTION OF RUNETERRA
TASK PRIORITY: ABSOLUTE
> COUNTDOWN: 00:18:32
GENERATING SUBTASK …
SUBTASK 02: PREVENT COLLAPSE OF RITUAL CIRCLE
IMPLEMENT: REDEPLOY HEXKORPS
ESTIMATING CASUALTIES …
PROCESS HALTED; IRRELEVANT
He touched the side of his vocal synthesizer.
“HEXKORPS! REDEPLOY TO STRIKE VECTOR SIX-FOUR-NINE-ALPHA!”
The armored battalions fired their pyrikhos engines at maximum burn and rolled forth to meet the Void swarm in close combat. Viktor saw Galio swoop down from the sky, bringing with him a gust along whose path a formation of Demacian knights charged in tandem with the HexKorps.
ALERT: NEW ARCANE SIGNATURE DETECTED
ANALYSIS COMPLETE: NECROMANTIC ENTITIES DETECTED
Viktor turned to the western flank. Noxian legions hefted their axes as tens of thousands of reanimated undead stumbled forth, dragging ancient Shuriman weapons in the sand behind them. Borne aloft on an immensely tall palanquin stood Nefara, the mummified lich queen whose assault on Bandle City had been repelled with superior Zaunite technology. (And still those treacherous little yordles had betrayed them!) With a wave of her hand, she sent chariots pulled by skeletal horses forward, their fleshless riders raising great halberds to the sky, thirsty for living blood.
Swain shouted orders to fall back and reform ranks. But it was too late. The charge broke the Noxian line, and three chariots burst through to rush toward the ring of Summoners that held the apocalypse at bay. The corpses the chariots left in their bloody wake lurched to their feet, chunks of flesh ripped away from their bones, and tore into the legionaries at their sides. Panic spread; Viktor saw that their tactical configuration was insufficiently flexible to adapt to the sudden insertion of hostile entities into their midst. Crude military discipline was of limited use against these primal instincts.
But the failing Noxian line was not of immediate concern. Viktor refocused instead on the three chariots that had made it through. There were only seconds before they would reach the Summoners.
Only two Champions stood in their way: Sion was closest, directly facing the foremost chariot, with Darius approximately thirty meters to the side, positioned to intercept the other two.
Sion stepped forward and swung his axe into the side of the lead chariot. The massive blow toppled it. He planted a foot on the ancient bronze frame and began working his weapon free.
“GET OFF MY CHOPPAH!”
The skeleton’s halberd arced down as Sion singlemindedly tugged at the embedded axe … and the blade bounced harmlessly off his shoulder. Sion pulled his axe from the wreckage and grabbed the skeleton by the neck.
“What was DAT, a little laaahv tahp? How daahre you show your face on ze battlefield, vhen you are so PUNY?! Zis is DISGRACEFUL!” He smashed the skeletal warrior against the body of the chariot.
“You call zees BONES?! Dey are TOOTHPICKS!” He tore the skeleton’s arm off and rattled its dry bones indicatively. “Ja, dey are TOOTHPICKS! I said it. It’s true! Und now I am going to pick my TEETH with your pathetic little toothpick ahhhmms. But faaahst, I sink it is time for you to TALK TO ZE HAHND.” He drove the bony forearm through its owner’s skull, and the reanimated corpse disintegrated into dust.
Sion lifted the chariot’s broken body and flung it into one of the two chariots charging Darius. It plowed into the sand, as Darius smashed his axe through the horse pulling the other.
The riders set upon Darius from the wreckage of their chariots. He spun to block a halberd swing with the black iron haft of his axe. Both weapons were charged with magic; sparks flashed as the Noxian blood-sorcery worked into the axe’s haft burned against the Shuriman enchantments folded into the halberd’s blade.
Sion plodded across the sand toward where Darius fought. “Oh, look at zees. You Noxians today! Look at you spinning und twaaaaahling in saaaahcles like a little balleriiiinah. Blocking und dodging like a little frou-frou gahly-man. Oh, no, you say, zees skeletons, dey are so scaaaahry, dey will hurt my little fleshy baaahdy if I do not prance around zem with my ballerina dancing und my pretty princess blocking moves dat my little sistah taught me.”
Darius roared as he grabbed hold of the halberd’s shaft and flung its rider down into the sand. A downward swing from his axe dispatched it.
“Oh, I’m saaahhhhry, did Sion haahhht your feelings? Is Darius angry? Is ze Hand of Noxus going to cry to his maaahmmy?”
Sion’s eye sockets flared red. His gaze froze the other chariot’s rider, a mummified corpse in royal garb, in its place. “No, wait, I sink it is more like cry to his MUMMY. You know vhat I mean?” A swing from his axe hacked it in half at the waist. “Ha. Dat was a real SIDE-SPLITTAH.”
Darius stormed forward into the scattered ranks of the legions. He slashed his axe through a reanimated legionary and kicked her bisected body out of his way, barely breaking stride. “SIXTH LEGION! REFORM!” He raised his bloodied axe high above his head, as a sort of improvised standard. Something in his eyes seemed to tell the legionaries that, should there be any hesitation, he might cease to distinguish between the reanimated dead and their still-living comrades.
Sion stomped through the battle lines, bearing his enormous axe and his perpetual skeletal grin. He looked aside at Urgot.
“Hey, Urgot, you should go join Daaahrius. He’s even crabbier zan you today.”
Viktor looked into the sky as Kayle swept down to hover above the chaotic melee and point her sword at the lich queen herself. Her wings fanned wide, and a flare of celestial energy illuminated her golden armor with otherworldly light. The light streamed down into her sword, which burst into flames.
“Nefara! Your time has come.”
The lich hissed her retort. “My time came long ago.”
Kayle swept her wings back and launched herself at her foe, blade raised for a powerful strike. Nefara thrust out a bony hand wrapped in dusty scraps of bandage and blasted the celestial warrior with a warbling stream of brilliant purple light.
Their duel was irrelevant and foolish, a useless display of egotism, and Viktor had no interest in such absurd gestures. He updated his calculations concerning the Noxian flank and moved on. He had seen that the line would hold, at least as long as the thaumic matrix itself would hold. And that was not much longer.
> COUNTDOWN: 00:17:22
SUBTASK 01: MAINTAIN PRIMARY THAUMIC MATRIX
STATUS: IN PROGRESS; RITUAL CIRCLE ESTABLISHED TO MAINTAIN MATRIX
SUBTASK 02: PREVENT COLLAPSE OF RITUAL CIRCLE
STATUS: IN PROGRESS; HEXKORPS REDEPLOYED TO MAINTAIN PERIMETER
CREATING NEW SUBTASK
SUBTASK 03: STABILIZE VOID RIFT
STATUS: INITIATING …
CORE IMPLEMENTS: VIKTOR, MERRICURRY
SECONDARY IMPLEMENTS: LUX, JAYCE
AUXILIARY/INCIDENTAL IMPLEMENTS: OTHER CHAMPIONS, SUITABLE FOR CLOSE COMBAT
Viktor looked back at the Champions gathered at the entrance. He knew that Lux had memorized a Demacian invocation that could neutralize pyrikhos with some form of light magic. It would be most regrettable to lose such a large cache of the dark sand, but it would be preferable to apocalypse.
He saw her lying on a stretcher among the wounded. Quite pointlessly, wounded assets had been given a central defensive location — as though recovery of damaged assets was of any relevance now! The Summoner called Flan, whose robes bore the red-and-white fist emblem of the Riotous Fists Clan, knelt beside the damaged Demacian Champion. In yet another useless diversion of resources, Garen, who appeared relatively undamaged, bore two wounded knights to the stretcher area, one over each shoulder, and laid them down on pallets beside Lux.
Viktor attempted to refine his scan to ascertain whether Lux could be reactivated and brought into a useful state for the mine assault. Though he hoped he would not have to resort to such a desperate measure as the destruction of the pyrikhos in Mine 006, it would significantly increase odds of partial success to have such a failsafe available. Garen’s useless bulk blocked his view; he could only see that Lux was unconscious.
Summoner Flan looked up at Garen. He held his face in one hand, which frustratingly did nothing to diminish the visual obstruction that prevented Viktor from properly assessing her functional state.
AUDIO SENSORS: RETUNING FOR NARROW FOCUS
RECEIVING DATA …
Flan’s voice filtered into his sensory subprocessor. “—from a hextech death ray. It was an artillery piece, and she took the shot straight-on. But she’s strong, and we got to her in time. Ezreal held them back long enough for us to get her to safety. She’s going to make it … if any of us do.”
Garen spoke next. His voice was distorted by an emotional contraction of his vocal apparatus; Viktor irately adjusted the audio filter to compensate, and scanned his verbal output for relevant data. “She has done her utmost for Demacia.” Useless; that could mean anything. He drew his sword, which obscured Lux still further. “And now I shall do mine.” Irrelevant; the flanks were already sufficiently secure. Garen’s participation was without significance.
Garen rose to his feet and turned to face the battle again. He broke into a headlong rush, yelling incoherent nonsense. Viktor de-amplified the audio stream to prevent subprocessor miscalibration.
With the oaf out of the way, he could get a clear look at Lux. A hole had been burned through her midsection. A full-body scan indicated significant contamination of her system with techmaturgic radiation. He failed to see how she could possibly survive; regardless, she was no longer of use in completing his present task.
REVISED ASSESSMENT: LUX NON-FUNCTIONAL
ESTIMATED TIME FOR RESTORATION OF CORE FUNCTION: GREATER THAN 00:20:00
LUX DELETED FROM LIST OF AVAILABLE SECONDARY IMPLEMENTS
Very well, then. Now, all he needed was some meat to absorb damage for himself and Merricurry and ensure they reached the rift. His first selections for close combat support would have been Mundo and Renekton, but no sooner had he looked their way than they charged into the mine, following the central path that Jinx and Blitzcrank (and shortly thereafter Vi) had taken. Surely they had not taken this path out of any intelligent sense of tactics, but it was as well that they did: they would occupy the bulk of the Void forces, relieving pressure from the side path Swain had identified and providing a route to the chamber in which Malzahar was conjuring forth the rift.
He settled next on Zac. Standing, he pointed his way. “YOU! YOU WILL ESCORT US TO THE RIFT! WE WILL TAKE THE SIDE PASSAGE!”
Zac folded his arm-appendages. “You really need to work on your tone, pal.”
Viktor heard Morgana snarl as she strode between the two of them. She swung her arm down and snatched a grip on Merricurry’s backpack, bodily lifting the startled yordle and bearing her into the mine.
She seethed. “Mortal fools! FOLLOW!”
Merricurry flailed her legs seeking a foothold in the sand, but could not reach. Morgana conjured a ball of dark fire in her free hand and cast it ahead of her. Viktor did not see the impact, but heard the familiar sound of ethereal snares bursting up to seize whatever creature had been in her way.
Zac shrugged and followed along. “Hey, easy on the Professor there, Morgana … ”
> COUNTDOWN: 00:16:36
Viktor glanced back to see if Jayce was—
“The world’s not ending on MY watch,” the pompous gadgeteer proclaimed as he hefted his ridiculous hammer and entered the mine, ahead of Viktor. Of course. Always! Ahead! At least this way his useless flesh body would potentially absorb projectiles that might otherwise strike Viktor.
Seething at the thought of the Glorious Evolution’s fate depending upon a neurotic band of self-important League Champions, Viktor set his scepter to a focused anti-Void dispersion beam frequency and followed them inside.
As he stepped through, he heard Caitlyn’s voice from above the entrance outside.
“About bloody time.”
Viktor entered the mine’s cavernous main tunnel. His sensors hissed, several going out of alignment: the amplitude of the Void resonance here was hundreds of times higher than it had been outside the mine. Voidspawn would thrive in such an environment. The oscillating anti-magic distortion did more than miscalibrate his sensors: virtually every form of magic thus far known to Runeterran arcane science faltered and dispersed in the cosmic noise. Blitzcrank’s techmaturgic core, Viktor’s own death rays, Vi’s gauntlets, Morgana’s spells, even Jinx’s superhuman agility and aim — the Void flood enfeebled Runeterra’s greatest Champions.
Restarting sensor array at calibration +10x …
Throngs of Voidspawn filled the tunnel, which resounded with the chaotic clamor of combat. The rich alien atmosphere at once fed them strength and stoked their hunger. Viktor would not allow a horde of stupid animals to destroy the glorious evolution.
The rift was one hundred and fifty-six meters ahead, but Malzahar’s forces were too strong, too plentiful here: they would never reach the rift in time.
> COUNTDOWN: 00:15:50
The entrance to a cramped side passageway, which by Viktor’s calculations would exhibit a much weaker Void resonance, was only thirty-nine meters away. That was all he needed from these oafs and imbeciles called Champions: to push the Void horde back thirty-nine meters so that he and Merricurry could enter the side passage and follow it to the rift.
Viktor’s scanners reactivated. They read a cross-dimensional fracture less than five meters away, along the mine’s wall. He looked over his shoulder.
The rock melted, boiled, and exploded. A tentacled beast burst out, launched at Viktor by a jet of molten rock. His combat cogitation protocols sliced thin rations of time from the 0.003 seconds estimated until impact.
.0030s TO IMPACT
TARGET PHASE VARIANCE ACQUIRED: BETA-900-A (LOGARITHMIC ESCALATION)
.0023s TO IMPACT
COMPUTING COUNTER-PHASE SOLUTION
.0018s TO IMPACT
PRIMARY MATRIX RESOLUTION: GAMMA-300-Q CROSS OMEGA-1000-S
COMPUTING COUNTER-PHASE SOLUTION
.012s TO IMPACT
TRANSMITTING CALIBRATION/ACTIVATION COMMAND
ROUTE: RIGHT ARM ASSEMBLY TO HEX CORE AUGMENT
.004s TO IMPACT
ACTIVATION WITH CALIBRATION GAMMA-300-Q CROSS OMEGA-1000-S
His scepter transmitted the counter-pulse in a burst of ruby light. The matrix that bound the beast to this dimension crystallized and shattered, turning a harness into a sieve. Its kinetic energy forced it through, shredding it apart and scattering the fragments across interdimensional space. Viktor sustained minimal damage; its destruction was total.
Viktor re-tuned his sensors and looked ahead once more. Thirty-nine meters to the passageway. That was all he needed. Thirty-nine meters.
Blitzcrank was at the fore, Jinx riding upon his shoulders and blazing at the Void swarm with her chaingun while Vi brawled nearby. They were … twelve meters ahead.
> COUNTDOWN: 00:15:47
This was entirely inadequate. Morgana, Zac, and Jayce were making little headway against the horde. Merricurry was merely making the usual sounds associated with a distressed yordle. Mundo and Renekton were faring little better, still fighting their way to Blitzcrank’s position.
Voidlings climbed up Blitzcrank’s legs, biting and slashing but unable to penetrate his techmaturgic alloy plating. One nearly made it to Jinx, but was stunned with a blast from her shock pistol. It tumbled down to the rocky ground, where Blitzcrank stomped it into shell fragments and a puddle of ichor.
Blitzcrank was being surrounded. Just behind him, Vi wrestled with an immense Void beast which Viktor’s kinetic modeling systems summarized as a scorpion with a set of legs on top that roughly mirrored the set on bottom.
Vi cringed as it sunk a talon into her side. “Jinx … you stupi— ARGGH!” She wrapped the beast’s midsection with both hextech-gauntleted arms and twisted until its carapace cracked. Its legs flailed wildly, flexing where there had not even appeared to be joints. The talon inside her stomach wrenched and gouged. In an impressive display of resilience, the Champion found the strength to swing her legs up around the scorpion-beast and pin it in place. The pistons in her gauntlets spat steam as she torqued her upper body and ripped the monster in half. Its limbs instantly collapsed as some kind of dark green ichor sprayed out. Sticky purple-and-yellow foam spewed out of what seemed to be its mouth and fell over her face.
Vi heaved the monster to the side and promptly vomited. She was still purging her primitive gastric system when a Voidling sprang onto her and drove its beak into the gap the scorpion-beast had torn in her armor. She snatched it off and smashed it into a wall, against which she then collapsed.
Jinx glanced over and giggled. “Uh oh! That looks pretty bad. Better tell Caitlyn how you really feel about her. While there’s still time!” She deepened her voice in a parody of maturity. “Unnhhh, Cait, I wanna lick all the frosting off your cupcake—”
Vi groaned and threw up again as the extradimensional poison flooded her veins. The gouge in her side, which had likely caused significant damage to her internal organs, continued to bleed. Her already ashen face took on a pale green tinge, and Viktor detected her heart rate slow nearly to a stop. She would likely be of little further use.
Jinx scrunched up her nose. “Eeew. Not attractive, Vi. Not at all.”
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:14:17
TACTICAL SUBPROCESSOR ENGAGED
OFFENSIVE PERIMETER CURRENTLY 17 METERS FROM OBJECTIVE (PASSAGEWAY)
REVISE FIGURES; ASSUME TERMINATION OF CHAMPION “VI”
TIME TO REACH PASSAGEWAY AT CURRENT RATE: 27 MINUTES
DESTRUCTION OF RUNETERRA IN 00:14:16
Viktor sensed the bland refinement of Institute magic as several Summoners rushed past. He reached out and grabbed one of them by his purple robe. The sigils on the lapel matched a database entry for a Summoner Till, marked as currently inactive but having a son who had declared for Zaun in the present Shuriman dispute.
“YOU! SON OF TILL! YOU WILL MOVE THE LINE SEVENTEEN METERS FORWARD!”
The Summoner hastily nodded. “We’ll tr—”
Viktor growled. “YOU WILL DO IT NOW!” He flung the Summoner after the others.
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:14:12
Galio swept in and hovered overhead in a guard position while the Summoners began drawing a ritual Summoning circle on the mine’s floor. A winged Voidling slipped past Morgana and dove at the Summoners; Viktor slashed its carapace open with a death ray, and Galio burst it apart with a concussive gust.
Summoner Naggarok looked over at the figures another Summoner was drawing, and spoke through his breather-mask. “What are you drawing? An Ionian lattice? The thaumic output is an order of magnitude below what we—”
Summoner Zepp scowled. “Who cares? We just need a channeling conduit. We’re not trying to summon Rahhzilla—aaargHRHGGLLL!”
Naggarok grabbed Zepp by the neck. His voice clipped and distorted into a mechanical buzz as the volume increased. “IF YOU MENTION THAT COMIC BOOK ONE. MORE. TIME. … ”
Zepp struggled to pry Naggarok’s hand off his throat. He peeled a finger away just enough to speak. “We don’t have time for League hexcraft here! It’s go-time! As in, distress signal from the Council of Zaun, priority double-omega, villainy is afoot, dispatch TekForce Six at onc—”
Naggarok squeezed harder, muffling Zepp’s voice into a strained gasp. He drew a bolt pistol from his robes, aimed it at Zepp’s face, then after a somewhat meaningful pause diverted the barrel to fire over his shoulder and destroy a skittering Voidling.
Zepp panted for breath as Naggarok released him. He rubbed his throat. “Okay, okay, hexcraft it is. Also, ow, that was really loud.”
Galio frowned at the bickering. “This is like herding cats. We really need a command structure that isn’t based on random violence.” Typical Demacian sentiment.
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:13:37
Malzahar’s Voidling swarms began to thin, but they were soon bolstered by what appeared to be the reanimated corpses of Zaunite miners. Viktor recognized some of their tags from the experimental morgue index: these were the ones who had ceased functioning after exposure to pyrikhos-related phenomena. Their flesh had been seared, stretched, and hardened into jagged armor, the sides of their mouths torn open and shaped into mandibles.
Viktor looked over his shoulder at the Summoners’ runic circle. Their progress was much too slow, much too cautious, much too orthodox. He scanned the diagram, then held his scepter out and fired a beam of energy into the center. Green smoke hissed up from the glyphs as they began to move and flow.
Summoner Till’s son inclined his head. “How did he—”
Naggarok looked over the runes. “Science. Now start channeling.”
Viktor reeled as the improvised channeling conduit opened. For a moment, he was cast adrift into a sea of thoughts. His scepter was aligned with the field. He had to break it free, but he could not move his body, as though he could not find it amidst the diffuse matter of the cavern, and then he could not find even his mind. He fumbled around within the arcane vortex, finding a chain of thoughts and latching on, only realizing he was mistaken for an instant before his perception was pulled into the alien rhythm.
His … Renekton’s … strength was fading. The gashes that had been opened in his chest and stomach by the Void-twisted miners’ pickaxes proved that even the Ascended could bleed. The hiss and screech of the Void had at first simply angered him, but now it was eroding his defenses, burning deeper and deeper into his twisted mind. The scabs and callouses that had formed over the ruptures it suffered after eons of entombment began to crack and open anew. The Ascended being within him was coming apart at the seams, and with it, his strength … even his fury. His razor-edged rage was dripping into useless, molten pain.
RAHHZILLA, YOU MUST FIGHT!
I mean, RENEKTON, YOU MUST FIGHT!
A Summoner dares besmirch my name with his petulant mortal voice!
This Summoner was a pitiful, ignorant creature who had not seen even a full century. His childish mind was packed with nauseating frivolities, comic books and moving pictures. He knew nothing of what it meant to be buried alive by one’s own brother, for an Ascended being to gaze for so long into mortal terror and mortal avarice.
So simple. So young. So free of trauma and pain. So blessedly ignorant. Through the link, Renekton was able to find a few moments of, if not peace, then at least distraction. He felt the Summoner’s magic restore his dissolving mind, renewing his strength. Open wounds once again became rugged scars.
I know. I’m here. I hate them, too. They want to lock us in a new prison, in the Void. Forever. They want us for food. But our rage is beyond their … I mean, but we aren’t going to let them. We’re never going back there. WE’RE NEVER GOING BACK THERE!
Agony once again hardened into rage. The Summoner’s earnest words were the hammer blows that struck his torment into the shape of a weapon, brandished still white-hot from the flames in which it had been forged. As his own might returned, he found added to it the Summoner’s arcane power. He swung his blade and cut three miners apart with a single stroke.
NULL RESPONSE FROM CORE INTELLIGENCE
AUTOMATED RESTART INITIATED
AUTOMATED RESTART COMPLETE
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:13:18
Something tugged Viktor back into his own mind. He tightened his grip on the scepter and yanked it to the side, out of alignment with the channeling circle. Sparks flashed from the glowing runes.
He saw Renekton swinging his enormous blade with renewed fury. Perhaps due to a lingering malfunction, he found himself staring uselessly at the sight for almost a full second.
Free of that error, he reassessed the situation. Renekton and Mundo had reached Blitzcrank and were advancing, now less than ten meters from the side passageway. Someone had poured a fortifying elixir into the circle and revived Vi with its magic. With a Summoner’s strength behind her, she fought on.
Viktor hastened forward to Merricurry’s position. Behind him, he heard one of the Summoners, Zinovie Fenix of Zaun, begin chanting what sounded like a teleportation spell, intermixed with Shuriman.
Jayce crushed a Voidling with his hammer. He was panting for breath, and visibly fatigued. Viktor pushed him aside and slashed a death ray across the shambling rank of miners that blocked their path. Zac knocked them back with a sweep of his club-like fist. The entry to the side passage was clear, only a few meters ahead.
LEVEL III VOID DISTORTION DETECTED
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:12:41
Viktor looked ahead to the distortion, and saw Kog’maw scurry out of the portal. He reared back and spat fuming acid into the air.
Merricurry shrieked. Morgana swept forward, still holding the yordle aloft, and gathered the dark sorcery that surrounded her into a black and purple barrier to block the projectiles.
Viktor grabbed the battle-weary Jayce and shoved him into the passage. “AFTER YOU!”
Zac frowned at him before following Jayce. Viktor scanned the corridor, confirming a much lower level of Void disruption, and stepped through.
As Morgana turned to follow, Viktor detected another Void distortion beside her. Kha’zix materialized and sank a claw into Morgana’s shoulder. Viktor stepped forward to snatch Merricurry from her, intent upon avoiding further delay, but as he reached out he was interrupted by Vi’s shout.
Outlined in pale blue light from a Ghost spell, Vi shot forward and tackled Kha’zix to the wall. Lightened further by the Summoner’s magic, Vi’s gauntlet arced in an impossibly fast swing that smashed the Voidreaver’s head into a smear of purple fluid and broken bits of exoskeleton.
Morgana glanced at Vi, scoffed, and followed Viktor into the passage that led to the rift.
>> COUNTDOWN: 00:11:01
Viktor shoved Jayce forward. “FASTER, YOU FOOL!”
He felt Summoner 333LOM’s presence enter his mind. The ether brightened and came into sharper resolution through her arcane senses.
We bring the Glorious Evolution!
The Summoner’s power surged through Viktor. Her thoughts bound with his, and together they raced through the corridors of his preprocessed computations concerning the Void rift, and the means by which it might be sealed. Fresh instincts reworked the analyses, and a newly tapped store of knowledge expanded them.
The end of the tunnel had been collapsed and blocked off by the rubble, sealed into a hardened barrier with hissing, screeching Void energy.
Jayce tapped his Thunder Hammer against it, drawing a flash of sparks. “Clever. A feedback loop between two Void conduits, with a null core to add elliptical dimensionality.” He took an ethertronic variator from his belt and began tuning it. “I’ll divert the secondary current into the local leyline. That should neutralize the distortion.”
Viktor scowled at Jayce’s pedestrian approach, his fleshy primate hands fumbling with the little metal box. Always so cautious, so partial, and so reserved.
He struck his scepter against the field. All other sensory data distorted away as he was brought directly into awareness of the barrier’s underlying structure. Screams, yellow eyes, foaming madness, a Void of infinite depth … but bound up with rock laced with little glitters of native Runeterran elemental earth magic. Indestructible particles of arcane energy, aligned with the local leylines over aeons. He knew little of the primitive schools of elemental magic that described the operation of such forces, but to the Institute-educated 333lom it was foundational arcane doctrine. She began weaving a spell to fit his calculated disruption parameters.
Sholohar toramaluth obesolahar muralon …
He channeled her invocation into the barrier. A counter-field of elemental magic, deeply rooted in Runeterra’s cosmic signature, shot out through the barrier and split it apart.
Jayce’s variator exploded in his hands as the field collapsed, leaving only rock. Viktor laughed maniacally, and pointed at Zac. “YOU! DESTROY THIS RUBBLE!”
Zac anchored his fists in the earth and pulled himself back. The cavern shook as he drove his feet deep into the rock below with each step. “Comin’ through!” He released the elastic tension and shot forward. His bulk smashed through the piled rocks, revealing an open chamber.
A figure in Summoner robes vanished through a portal, leaving only the rift and the Void’s mad prophet.
The balls of purple fire which illuminated the chamber outlined a pathway leading from the main tunnel to the rift. Ether-tinged winds swept the air into wild, tangled currents that held Malzahar aloft before the rift, robes snapping and billowing.
Viktor pushed past Jayce and strode into the chamber.
Malzahar chanted, his back still turned to Viktor. “Neuga, ziena, zieber, zom … ”
One of the chaotic currents of energy snapped around Viktor’s foot and tripped him. He fell to a kneeling stance, braced by his scepter.
Malzahar turned his head to look back at the Champions, eyes ablaze. “How much more painful for you this will now become.”
Zac socked a fist into his palm. “Big talk for a little man in purple pajamas.”
Jayce locked his Thunder Hammer into firing mode. “It’s been an honor, Zac.” He set his square jaw into a determined grimace. “We fight for tomorrow!”
Morgana flung Merricurry into Viktor’s prone form. She bounced off him and scrambled to unstrap her backpack. At least, Viktor noted, there was one other more interested in averting the apocalypse than absurd posturing.
Viktor glanced down at Merricurry as she rummaged through her pack. He saw a silver null-magic case wrapped around what appeared to be a thick book. A book approximately 11.3 centimeters thick.
QUERYING DATABASE …
MATCH FOUND: SOLAR CODEX
ENTRY: SOLAR CODEX: SHURIMAN SPELLBOOK, CLASS X ARTIFACT
The Codex?! She’d brought the Codex here?
Merricurry glanced up at him. She gave a meaningful nod.
Morgana swept out her wings and raised both palms. Her lips curved into a cold sneer as she gazed upon Malzahar. “Insolent vermin. I’ll feed your broken body to your starving masters.” She inclined her head and listened to the whistling howl of the Void beyond. “I hear their hunger. How they’ll relish even so scrawny a thing as you.”
Viktor scanned the room. As expected, there was a secondary point of dimensional inflection, bound to the rift. Perhaps a seam of particularly potent pyrikhos. Whatever it was, it was the rift’s anchor to this dimension.
Malzahar thrust one hand into the rift. An extradimensional surge wracked his body and lit the room as brightly as a purple sun. He screamed and laughed as a warbling pulse of Void energy knocked Morgana to the ground.
Viktor pointed to the secondary inflection. “QUICKLY!” He dashed across the room, Merricurry racing behind.
>>> COUNTDOWN: 00:08:17
Viktor crouched on the dusty floor and began a deeper scan. No, not simply pyrikhos … too strong, and too stable …
Merricurry arrived beside him, panting. She took a vial of indigo liquid from her pack, popped the wax-sealed cork off, and splashed the dusty rock. It hissed violently, and the dust burned away to reveal a golden slab. The liquid spread thinly across the ancient metal, then evaporated as sigils began to glow on its surface.
Merricurry pulled the Solar Codex from her pack and tugged away its null-magic wrapping.
Malzahar’s cackling abruptly stopped as he sensed the Codex’s energy. A shock blast from Jayce’s hammer struck him in the stomach, drawing a grunt and a wheeze but failing to draw his eyes away from the tome.
Merricurry opened the Codex to a page that showed a map, a diagram of a temple. In the center was a depiction of a golden altar, carved with the same sigils.
>>> COUNTDOWN: 00:07:38
“Mothership protect us,” she whispered.
Next Update: Secrets of Shurima