Thanks to ShadowKnight1224 and AbiwonKenabi for drafting these lore events. They provide an interactive story for each faction, with a vote that will help decide how the stories play out. The options were determined in part by the outcomes of the June 4-5 Featured Matches.
Icathia: Murder Mystery
Asking a man like Khada Jhin for help was a sign of either desperation or insanity. He was, after all, the kind of person that could murder you with a pair of chopsticks and make it look like a work of art. Icathia was not desperate when it petitioned the Institute to make him a temporary consultant in the investigation of the murder of the two Noxian Summoners.
Jhin was rather peculiar, as only renowned artistes could be. Only four Summoners were allowed to accompany him to his examination of the crime scene, his jasmine tea had to be brewed by an Ionian master of ceremonies, and so on. The Icathians, of course, had acquiesced with different degrees of obsequiousness. It had been an unspoken agreement: give the auteur the recognition he craved, gain his insight in return.
The four Summoners did as the Champion instructed. They stood beside the front doors as he surveyed the crime scene and did not speak unless spoken to. Jhin asked them questions of a diverse nature; regarding the victims, the housekeeper, the house, how the bodies had been found, their time of death, even something as bizarre as the smell in the grand hall when the first Summoner had entered the scene. Jhin stepped carefully, avoiding blood pools and broken glass with the grace of someone used to scenes of carnage. With a delicate finger, he’d carefully prod the bodies to test their stiffness. With the naturality of someone who’d done such a thing before, he’d bend over to smell the perfume still lingering about the dead woman’s corpse.
His final instruction had been to cast an illusion spell that would simulate the ambient conditions of the time of death. It had been at dusk, and Jhin wanted to see how the light would be cast across the grand hall.
“Ah, yes,” Jhin said gesturing at the crystal chandelier that hung from the skylight above them. “At this time of day, the light no longer illuminates the whole room. By this point, the magelights along the wall would be lit,” he gestured at the Summoners, who swiftly altered the illusion spell to add flickering flames in the sconces alongside the walls. “How unlike most Noxians,” Jhin continued. He was standing by the Summoners near the front doors, a finger against the chin of his mask. “Warm lights, rich fabrics, lustrous hardwood and deep colours. Grand but welcoming.”
The Summoners remained silent.
“The outside looks about as boring as you’d expect from a Noxian, but the inside tells a different story. These people were not as intransigent as one might expect,” Jhin said, walking up to an end table with a vase and a bouquet of white roses. “Not black, not red, but white. The smarter choice, against the hardwood and the deep reds. Most Noxians would not have seen that. Were they well travelled?”
“Yes, they made a point to travel Runeterra as much as their work allowed,” a Summoner replied with a nod.
“Yes, I can see the influences,” Jhin continued, studying the paintings in the walls. “Ionian cherry trees, a Freljordian landscape, even a scene of Demacian martyrdom. Did they take souvenirs with them?”
“Yes, actually. That door over there leads to a gallery,” another Summoner replied, pointing at the destroyed door on the right side of the room. The gallery could be seen at the end of what had once been a withdrawing room, and now looked instead as though a small tornado had swept through it. “It has more paintings and a collection of magical artefacts they gathered throughout their journeys.”
The Champion nodded. “Indeed.” He looked at the bodies again. “Both died in the same way. A searing lance or beam through the heart, with perfect aim. It’s hard to tell because of the blood, but the wound was partially cauterised. Between that and the scorch marks on the wood, there should have been a burnt smell in the hall when the bodies were discovered, but there was no such thing,” he explained, pointing at the lines of charred wood on the floor with a flourish. “Which means that the room was aired at some point in the night.”
The Summoners provided Jhin with the appropriate amount of marvelled surprise.
“He died first. There’s shock in his face, and he’s laying face down. She, instead, died angry, and facing up,” he continued. “If you look at the destruction in the room and the next, it’s all in the right side. This vase of flowers is untouched, because it was on the left side.” He pointed at the female Summoner’s corpse. “She is on the left staircase, while he is on the right one. I daresay the mess we see is her attempt to fight back. Caught unprepared, she unleashed a crude blast of air or force that tore through this room and the next. Note that it did not deter our killer.”
The Icathian Summoners ooh’d and ahh’d.
“She had put on perfume, but she wouldn’t have left the house or received company wearing something as simple as this,” he gestured at the woman’s plain violet dress, “she was coming downstairs after bathing. He, instead, was still unshaven. They used different staircases, it was part of their routine. Our killer knew that attempting to kill them in their sleep would be futile, as that’s when their strongest wards and alarms are in place. And yet they needed to die at once, or else the other would have time to cast defensive spells and the element of surprise would be lost. So when were they together, but alone? Well,” he said with another flourish, “after dinner, but before bed. Only someone who knew their routine by heart would’ve been able to find the perfect moment to strike. Our killer was someone they knew.”
He looked at the withdrawing room. “Judging from the angle of her blast, that’s where the killer came from. Now, look at the room. There is no bit of furniture in the area of her spell that wasn’t hit dead on. The killer wasn’t simply protected from the blast, it went right through them.”
“A ghost?” a Summoner asked, her interest a tad too morbid.
“From that side of the house?” Jhin replied with an artful chuckle. “Darling, one never keeps their dead near magical artefacts. No, I would recommend you all study their collection carefully. I think there’s one trinket in there that’s deadlier than it seems. Someone knew, and set it on them. Find their wills, ask around for any dramatic betrayals or scandalous affairs.”
“So the killer was… an artefact?”
“Put everything I have said together,” Jhin said, turning and opening his hands to gesture at the stage behind him. “There is no art in this murder, no vision, yet it’s not a haphazard crime of passion. Two perfect shots through the heart. Cold, clinical. It would be almost poetic, if the rest of the scene wasn’t so dreadfully dull. The thing that killed them was not human, even if it may have chosen to look like it. However, the one who set it upon them most definitely was.” He turned back towards them and leaned, complicit, forward. “The true mastermind came back. Remember the lack of smell. Someone was here after their deaths, long enough for the smell to dissipate.”
“But there were no unusual thaumic signals,” a Summoner said helplessly.
“Then whoever did it was either a regular in the house or skilled enough to conceal their presence,” the second Summoner replied.
“But…” the third uttered, “if it’s strong enough to conceal themselves from Summoner magic…”
“I think I know who did it,” the fourth Summoner interjected. She had remained quiet the entire time. “The thaumic signal wasn’t concealed. It all fits. Who’s in this house every day? Who knows their routines by heart? Who dusts the artefacts?”
Jhin took a deep bow, walked past them and then opened the front doors. “An amusing diversion, Summoners. Please, do call me again. Nothing quite stirs the blood like an old-fashioned murder mystery.”
“I hope you are aware,” the Icathian Summoner said, her eyes shifting colours like the wind, “that you are not inheriting the mansion.”
“I…” the middle-aged woman stated, confused. She looked about the cold meeting room in the Institute of War. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Helen Darkwood, born to Noxian commoners, served for thirty years in House LaRue and then was brought along when Gregor had his mansion built. Served faithfully ever since,” the Summoner continued. “So, why did you kill them, Helen? Did you not feel appreciated? All that spite you had been nursing for decades finally got to you? Did they say they were going to dismiss you after all you’d done for them?”
“I didn’t kill them!” the housekeeper exclaimed, eyes wide with horror. “It wasn’t me!”
“It’s all right, Helen. We’re not the Institute. We’re Icathians, we understand.” There was a pause, where the housekeeper simply stared at the Summoner in abject terror. “Listen, the evidence against you is rather conclusive. We found the artefact that killed them. Some Shuriman bronze ring that projected illusions. Great conversation piece, pretty harmless. That is, of course, until the divine nexus emerged and the leylines across Valoran got a little… excited. Some of them made magical devices near them malfunction. Or, in this case, remember their true purpose. The only thaumic signal we found in it was yours, Helen.”
The housekeeper stared silently at the Icathian Summoner. Her emotions shifted, slowly, from horror to resignation. “It wasn’t me, it was that blasted ring,” she said bitterly. “I didn’t want them dead, and I tried to resist for as long as I could, but eventually… I could hear the damned whispers from anywhere in the manor. And neither the master nor the mistress believed me! They used some fancy Summoner magic on the ring and sensed nothing. But I could still hear it, no matter where I went.”
“Why didn’t you resign?”
Helen scoffed. “Noxian servants don’t resign. We know too much. We can retire, but I still had some years left in me, and even if I did retire, I’d still be living in the servant’s quarters by the manor.”
“What did the artefact want, Helen?”
“It wanted me to speak some words. Shuriman, I think. It wanted me to pronounce them as I did some gestures.”
“It wanted you to activate it,” the Summoner said, nodding. “It was a defence system.”
“I didn’t know how to use it, I just did what it wanted me to do,” the housekeeper stated helplessly. “I didn’t know it was going to kill them!”
“But you suspected.”
“I… I thought… they were Summoners. They would fight back, destroy the artefact and then they’d believe me.”
“Summoners are not Champions, Helen. We’re good, but not that good.”
Helen’s gaze fell, slowly, to the table before her. Nobody had taught her that. Nobody had taught her that Summoners could be felled so easily. She had activated the artefact when there were no others that might get caught in the crossfire, when they were both together and awake. How could it have gone so wrong? She realised, bitterly, that even Champions might fall.
“What’s going to happen to me?” the housekeeper asked after a long moment of silence.
“That will be up to us to decide. We’ll see whether we surrender you to the Institute to be tried for their murder, or if we find some use for you.”
Helen stared at the stone wall before her. “I don’t know which fate is worse.”
“Oh, cheer up,” the Summoner chuckled. “You’re not the only one who hears voices.”
The housekeeper shuddered.
“Things have… complicated,” an Icathian summoner said to another. “The Noxians have formally requested the Institute that the housekeeper be turned over to face traditional Noxian justice.”
“Ah,” the other replied, nodding. “And they have ways of finding out the truth from her own mind. Once they see that she didn’t mean to kill them, they’ll be sure to keep her around for their own purposes.”
“If we turned her over, we might get some traction going with Noxus again. Ever since the Second Advent, they have been… reluctant to let us in.”
“This will be an interesting choice.”
Icathia must choose! What to do with the housekeeper? What face does Icathia want to show the world? Turning her over to Noxus would display a ‘conciliatory’ face, one that seeks to make amends for the past… perhaps to better influence nations in the future. Turning her over to the Institute would display a more ‘diplomatic’ face, one that seems desirous to play by the rules of international diplomacy. Telling the Institute that Icathia will take care of her will show a more ‘selfish’ face, one that is more concerned with exploiting situations for their own advantage.
Icathia turned her over to Noxus.
Bandle City: Perpetual Motion Machine Prototype
Rumble tugged at the fur on his face, staring at the papers on his cluttered desk. Teemo had delivered several reports to his workshop, all concerning the perpetual motion machine. Rumble got chills whenever he thought of it: a machine that could run forever, never needing a power source ever again. It had so much potential, it could change the world! Bandle City scientists would become the leading experts on perpetual power.
Instead it was being wasted by Bilgewater, used to generate favor for a religion. Rumble shook his head. Sitting around worshipping something was never his style. Better to keep your paws busy, and do something to make the Mothership proud.
He leafed through a few vague sketches of the machine. Bandle spies hadn’t even been able to report the material. It was a dark bronze color, but being underwater for so long, it could have been anything. A hextech-infused copper? A simple iron composite, long corroded from the water? He flipped another report open: more hexgraph images of the machine, none close enough to see any design details. Even just a small grasp of the alignment of belts and camshafts would be enough to get started on.
Rumble closed the folder angrily and rose from his desk, strolling through the workshop. He looked up at his various creations, which sat waiting to be maintenanced or completed. Tristy sat in her spot near his desk, alongside several other mecha prototypes he had been testing before all the divine nexus hullabaloo. He noticed a dent in Tristy’s hull. He was behind on maintenance, and Rumble had been working her overtime.
People always thought it was odd that Rumble kept his desk space inside his workshop and not off in some other room separately. He liked being near his creations. The smell of the oil, the visualizations of his ideas that had once just been on paper…they helped him think. He leaned against Tristy’s leg, stroking it absentmindedly.
“Rumble?” a voice called within the depths of the workshop. Teemo popped out from behind Rumble’s half-finished copter design.
“Back again? Please tell me you have good news.”
Teemo held up a folder. “I have news, anyways. Another report from Scout spies in Bilgewater. There’s some tension between the natives and the general populace that’s making it hard to get close to the temple’s construction and…well, the experts that have looked at the report so far haven’t had much to say about it.”
Rumble took the folder, opening it and scanning its contents. It was another distant and vague description of the machine’s workings. Since Bilgewater hasn’t been able to run it yet, it was all theoretical conjecture based on the glimpses that spies have gotten and the random discussions of the Nagakabouros clergy.
Rumble threw the folder down, sending pages flying all around. “This isn’t enough! I’ve got nothing to go on, I barely know what it looks like!”
Teemo hung his head low. “I’m sorry Rumble. The Scouts are getting everything they can. Bilgewater is wary of Yordles right now, especially Illaoi’s crew. They’re the ones making our lives difficult.”
Rumble rubbed his temples, putting a paw back onto Tristy. “The Mayor is relying on me—me not that traitor know-it-all—to get this prototype started. He’s selected a crew for it and everything. What am I supposed to tell him about this? That I can’t do it?”
“You can do it,” Teemo assured.
“I know I can, but it’s not going to be pretty. There’s a danger in just stabbing in the dark, especially with something this volatile. Normally you want to start with some kind of base or something. Even Tristy was based very loosely on construction machine designs. She didn’t just come from nowhere. Hextech builds on itself, starting from scratch is generally useless. Or worse, it becomes dangerous.”
Teemo scratched his cheek. “You have to start somewhere.” He paused, gazing around the workshop, looking up Tristy’s height. “We need more information, we could go get it. Our submarine modifications are almost finished, we should be able to move more freely. Not much is stopping us below sea.”
“You wanna just randomly scan the bottom of the ocean? Just search for any ole sprinkle in the rice sack?”
Teemo put a paw over his heart. “I believe in the Scouts and I believe in the Mothership. We’ll find something. I promise you, Rumble.”
“What will the Mayor say about it?” Rumble thought of Jadefellow when he gave Rumble the task. He had barely sputtered it out before handing him the documents and quickly changing the subject. “He doesn’t seem keen on taking risks like this. I’m surprised he even let you spy on Bilge.”
“I’ve been getting most of my orders from one of his advisors, General Camellia. She’s the one who suggested trying to come up with a prototype. She recommended you for the job.”
“Really?” Rumble couldn’t recall meeting a Camellia. He didn’t interact much with the Bandle City army.
Rumble shoved his paws into his pockets, strolling back towards his desk. Teemo bent over and gathered the scattered papers, scampering after Rumble and handing them back to him.
“Oh, right. Thanks.”
Rumble frowned. He was surprised Teemo put so much faith in him, even over the Revered Inventor, who generally handled these types of tasks for the Elders of the Mothership. A General in the army he’d never met even put her faith into him. He opened the now crumpled folder again.
“Alright, I’ll try and get something drawn up. In the meantime, do you mind bringing up your idea to the Mayor? And…maybe this General too? See what they want to do.”
Teemo grinned and saluted. “Consider it done, Rumble.” With that, he marched away, whistling a Bandle fight song as he left the workshop.
Vote to Decide! Will Bandle City try to come up with a prototype perpetual motion machine or will they search the depths with their newly modified subs to potentially find more information? Choosing to make the prototype now will be riskier and will certainly have dangerous complications, but will still make some progress. However, searching the depths will put the put the project on hold temporarily in exchange for making an undoubtedly helpful discovery, though this choice is a “leap of faith” and may not produce the results they expect.
Bandle City voted to explore more first.
“…And that’s why the popular hypothesis is that the leyline Eliann’s Devergence was affected by the runic events happening all over Nyroth, leading to the Ricchi’s Passage leyline–which had been giving thaumic readings with a .25 margin of change, huge for an ocean leyline, most likely due to the Sun Disc’s own runic energies–anyways, both Ricchi’s Passage and Eliann’s Divergence shifted slightly in the last year or so, right on the path of two other leylines that, while still crossed, had a relative balance in runic energy emissions, thus hadn’t caused any problems. With the other two major leylines shifting on top of them, the nexus was bound to form. That’s not even covering how unusual it is for a nexus to form underwater and why the nexus didn’t form right away. What do you think Professor Rumble?”
Rumble sighed at the Yordle who had finally stopped her prattling. “I’m not a Professor,” he reminded her for the umpteenth time.
“Oh, yes, of course. Still, you must have an opinion on the repressive properties the ocean seems to have on leylines, and of course what limited studies we’ve seen have provided no connection between water of any salinic content and suppressing runic energy…”
Rumble leaned back in his seat, trying to tune out Professor Poppet’s continuing lectures with the hissing and creaking of the metal submarine walls. Professor Poppet was nice enough, smart even–she was the lead scientist on the SS-4 Anchovy for a reason–but she didn’t seem to understand that Rumble was more of an engineer and only had limited knowledge on energy of a runic nature. Her large, pointy ears perked straight up when she saw Rumble would be working with her, and she constantly adjusted her glasses as she excitedly discussed the things she would love to discuss with a Yordle of Rumble’s caliber.
I suppose I am quite knowledgeable on most subjects, he smirked to himself smugly.
The intercom crackled to life overhead. “All units from the science division, please report to the bridge. We are approaching our target trajectory.”
“That’s our cue!” Professor Poppet chirped, “Sorry to cut our discussion short.”
The Anchovy’s scanners were soon lit up, and they started the long process of collecting information from the surrounding area. Rumble glanced at the scans, seeing a picture of various readings piece together what was outside the sub. They were in the vicinity of where the perpetual motion machine was found, among a myriad of Nagakabouros artifacts that marked this as a site of worship long lost. A blip on mana readings was visually confirmed to be a small team of Marai: they contacted the sub, telling them this area was off-limits and under Bilgewater’s jurisdiction. Rumble frowned. He hated how the League could just declare a location of interest off-limits to any party, no matter the validity of their interests. And he hated that the pirates were so greedy and superstitious about their “culture”. It’s not as if they cared about their heritage before.
They had charted a course heading outward from this location. Anchovy was slated to explore sectors A1-A7, and B1-B7. It was entirely possible they would be responsible for sectors C6 and D7 as well, thanks to some difficulty with the SS-3 Cuttlefish–their sister ship–and its assigned route. Rumble didn’t know what had happened that cause Cuttlefish to abort, but he suspected pirates had something to do with it. Maybe even barbarians. He scowled at the thought.
Our work matters so little to them, Rumble thought to himself.
A siren blared as the sensors lit up rapidly, casting colorful lights all over the dim bridge of the sub. “What’s the trouble?” the captain asked from her chair.
“Scanning,” Poppet responded. She stared intently at a screen. “A huge mana reading off the port bow. It’s not a Marai…”
BOOM. The Anchovy rattled as it collided with something big. Rumble glanced at the sonar reading.
“It’s gotta be a sea monster,” he said, eyebrows furrowed.
“Confirmed,” Poppet reported. Her goofy demeanor had dissolved as she relayed information. “Its mana signature is aligned with most lightning magics.”
The captain hesitated. “Lightning? All the way down–”
BOOM. Another crash.
“Get me a visual!” the captain shouted.
An image was thrown up on the large screen. The monster resembled a grinning green sea serpent, its body was bright with electricity running down its length. The lightning arced from its sides, licking at the sub. The crew watched as it darted by again, narrowly missing the Anchovy.
“An electric eel!” Poppet exclaimed, “They’re supposed to be super rare…”
Of course they’re rare, Rumble thought. The whole world seems against us. Rumble’s thoughts were interrupted by another resounding BOOM.
“Evasive maneuvers!” the captain ordered.
Rumble grabbed a control panel for balance as the bridge tipped sideways, the eel narrowly missing the hull again. A hiss rumbled the bridge as it shot a burst of electricity in their direction. The lights flickered. Rumble rushed to tap a few buttons to try and prevent the sensors from frying.
“This is not good for our systems, Captain,” Rumble said, frantically getting sonar back online. The main screen flickered to dark, before coming back in time to see the eel chasing their aft.
“Let loose a torpedo to cover our tracks. Get us into the next sector immediately. We can outrun this thing…”
“I hope you’re right,” Rumble mumbled, watching the crew twist various knobs and wheels. Rumble felt his body press back in his seat as the sub made its escape.
“Sensors are clear,” a crewman reported. The crew let out a collective breath.
“Where are we now?”
The crewman pecked a few keys. “Sector C5 ma’am.”
“Why are we so far from where we started?”
“The sea currents ma’am. The eel’s lightning disturbed the currents making it difficult to maneuver.”
The captain hit a fist on her armrest. “It would send us packing…set a course to C6. We may as well scan it while we’re here. Maybe the beastie will wander off by then and we can head back to sector A3.”
The Yordles returned to their scanning. Rumble grew increasingly impatient as there was less and less to report. He had to come up with a perpetual motion machine design by next week and these empty scans were not furthering that goal. He stared deeper and deeper at the sensor screens, until finally he grew tired of seeing nothing other than the usual current scanner, occasionally beeping softly.
Rumble was about to announce his intent to nap when Poppet leaped up. “I’ve got something! Due north, it’s faint but it’s a mana reading accompanied by a low thaumic reading.”
The sub followed this new directive. Rumble gazed out a nearby porthole: endless deep blues as far as he could see. He was about to return to Plan Nap when Poppet chirped up again.
“We’re getting close! I’ve pinpointed the readings, I’ll patch the coordinates. It’s getting stronger.”
“Get me some more detailed scans,” the captain ordered.
Rumble glanced out the porthole again, his jaw dropping. “I see it.”
“What’s the reading?”
He’d never seen anything quite like it. Out of the dim waters was a bright city of colors, reds and oranges and greens and pinks. Elaborate tree-like appendages stretched towards the sunlight which streamed in shafts onto this little oasis in the abyss. Weaving between these bright corals and waving anemones were thousands of fish: big fish, tiny fish swarming in schools, flat fish with their eyes on one side, frilly fish that glowed in bright reds and whites. Any kind of fish Rumble had ever thought of was in this spot.
“It’s a coral reef,” Poppet confirmed, sending the image to the main screen. The captain’s eyes widened. “The sensors have already counted two hundred and eleven unique–no two hundred and twelve…two hundred and fourteen unique species and counting! This is only the edge. Estimated size is about 50,000 square miles! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
“Let’s get some readings on this. Slow and steady forward.”
Rumble hopped up, “I’ll go out, maybe collect some samples or other data.”
“Alright, Champion Rumble. Be careful.”
In the airlock chamber, Rumble gave Tristy one last check. She wasn’t designed for underwater use but Rumble had outfitted her with a deep sea-ready exoskeleton, complete with protective cockpit. He replaced his Flame Spitter with a claw for picking up objects of interest and his harpoons had also been modified for underwater use. He had reluctantly replaced the Equalizer compartment with extra oxygen tanks, hoping that the extended underwater time would be more valuable than a quick burst of offensive Hextech. He would be able to last underwater for a good few hours. Possibly more. Or less…Rumble hadn’t extensively tested her.
After he nodded in approval, he climbed in, sealing the cockpit. He gave the crew a thumbs up and they set the chamber to fill with seawater. The door opened, and Rumble set out into the reef.
Tristy hovered for a while, gliding over top of some flat green coral below her hull. Rumble carefully maneuvered around the mountains of coral, landing softly in a patch of white sand, sending particles flying. Tristy’s steps were slowed by the weight of the water, but it gave Rumble time to carefully maneuver around the numerous organisms swarming around him.
Rumble eased Tristy forward, leaning in close to a nearby rock. The tiny caverns in the rock were filled with guppies no bigger than Rumble’s pinky toe. He crept forward, climbing over the tall rock and looking ahead at the miles of reef ahead of him. He turned the thrusters on, slowing his descent back among the corals. A slight bump on his control stick accidentally knocked off a branch of orange coral. He swore, but reached Tristy’s claw to collect the broken piece anyways. He ought to collect sample after all. The sub hovered a ways off, skirting the edge. It had been unable to follow without crashing into the many higher peaks of coral.
“This is incredible,” Poppet commented through a crackly radio, “The thaumic readings are increasing, and each individual is experiencing a phenomenon of thaumic dysphoria contrary to the thaumic relativity of the currents around them.”
“In Common please?” the captain asked.
“Each coral and animal has a completely unique thaumic signature to the surrounding current, but much like some leylines, which despite crossing still maintain harmony and don’t form a nexus.”
Rumble glanced ahead to another slope of coral. Hundreds of fish hovered along the slope, a blue species Rumble didn’t recognize. He was about to step forward when a rough current threw Tristy off-balance. He leaned in on the control stick to recover. As he did, he saw the current hit the school of blue fish. He was sure they would scatter and be tossed away by such a strong current. Instead, to his surprise, the fish swam with the current as it hit the slope and spiraled. The swam in a huge arc, circling towards Rumble and then back around to where they had started, as if the strong current had never happened.
Rumble flipped a switch, turning on his hexgraph recorder and emitting it back to the Anchovy. Steadying the front of Tristy, he dug her claw into the ground, stabilizing the mech. He stared at the school intently. Again, a sharp current raced through and again the fish circled around in an arc, letting the current take them back to where they started.
“Are you getting this?” Rumble asked.
Just then, a long sleek fish hovered to the side of Tristy. Rumble recognized this one: a barracuda. It’s beady eyes glared hungrily at the blue fish. Rumble watched him carefully, waiting for the current to come. Any second now…3…2…1…
The sea swept in, and the barracuda lazily flipped its tail. Such a small motion launched the barracuda towards the school and the school scattered. Without the current to guide them, they slowed and tumbled, easily falling into the barracuda’s jaw. In one swift motion, the barracuda had snatched up its meal, circled around and left the way it had come. The other remaining fish used the current to catapult themselves away from danger, into another farflung section of the reef.
What an efficient use of energy, Rumble mused, looking around at the fish that had gathered around Tristy, trying to use her for shelter. The current parted easily around Tristy, and the fish used this circulate around the mech, never staying in one place and presenting an easy target for any wandering barracudas.
“I’m scanning the other currents,” Professor Poppet said, “It seems like this reef is in close proximity to one of the Guardian Sea’s major leylines, so there’s a constant movement of water and energy. The coral have grown in such a way to make use of it though…not a bit of the kinetic energy is wasted!”
Rumble nodded, suddenly seeing the reef in a new light. Each movement went in line with a current, each fish and other sea creature only had to supply one subtle flip of the tail or one swish of a tentacle in order to cross the reef. Sea horses wove in and out of rocky coves, catching plankton on their way. Sea stars rode the current up the slopes of coral, using the countless feet on each of their points to lift up and let the waters take them. A crab buried himself in the sands after leaping off a point of coral and letting the flow slam him into the sea floor. It was all efficient, like a well-made machine.
Rumble’s ears perked up. “I can use this. In my design I mean. With efficient planning and movements we can make a machine go…well maybe not forever. Just a little bit of fuel though, is all it would need…yes, I can already start picturing it. Captain! I need to get this back to my workshop!”
“The whole reef?”
“Wha…no, no! This information! I can use this for the Mothership!”
“Roger that, Rumble. We’ll get you back–”
“A high mana reading is rushing this way!” Poppet interrupted.
Rumble was about to ask for details when a figure streaked above him and blocked the sun. The dim light from the sub flickered weakly as arcs of lightning shot overhead. The long figure snaked its way through the reef. Rumble watched as a school of the blue fish tried to use the expected current to dart away. Instead, the current went awry, sending them careening into the gaping maw of the electric eel. The eel’s grin chomped on its catch.
Rumble growled, glaring at the eel. Yet another thing trying to displace him in the world. Well, not this time. He extracted the claw from the ground and surged forward in his mech. A well-timed swing of Tristy’s spiked-mace arm landed on the passing eel’s belly. The eel hissed as blood spread through the water from his wound. It flipped its tail, landing a hit on Rumble.
Rumble’s controls went haywire from contact with the rampant magic. He himself received a nasty shock, causing him to let go of the control sticks. He shook it off, pressing a few buttons and regaining control. He knew attacks like that might fry Tristy’s hextech, but he was not about to let the eel scare him off.
He charged forward, and the eel met his charge with a set of wicked teeth. It chomped hard onto Tristy’s hull, right below the cockpit. Rumble lost control again and, struggling against the surge of electricity, slammed Tristy’s limbs into the eel’s face. Only every other input obeyed his command, and Rumble gritted his teeth and he fought to bring his controls back online.
A loud explosive bloomed from the eel, causing it to hiss again and free its jaws from Rumble’s mech. A large chunk of coral tumbled down, and the eel darted out of the way; it barely missed Rumble.
“Don’t shoot at it!” Rumble shouted into the radio, “You’ll hit the reef!”
Alerts blinked in Rumble’s face. As he had feared, the lightning from the eel had drained Tristy’s hextech batteries, despite the days-worth of power they usually held As Rumble struggled to maneuver the mech back onto her feet, a stray current caught him and pushed him upright. He suddenly recalled the way the barracuda had flowed, moment earlier.
“I got this! This eel’ll be powering my toaster this time tomorrow!” Rumble called.
He watched the eel carefully as it circled back around. It’s lightning zaps threw the current this way and that. Rumble stood stock still, until he felt an upwards pull. Reacting quickly, he pulsed the mech’s thrust for a split second, letting the current drive him upwards. The raced forward, but didn’t expect the Mechanized Menace to shoot up and over him. Rumble angled the mech, slamming Tristy’s entire body into the eel’s neck. He heard a sharp snap as the two collided with the seafloor below.
As the electricity subsided, Rumble saw the sea creatures return to their usual, natural flow, everything guided by the will of the sea. Rumble panted, the adrenaline draining from him. This was his place, and just as the currents guided the reef, he was guided by the Mothership. He glared at the motionless electric eel.
“That’s how we do things in Bandle City!”
Bilgewater: Grand Temple
“It will be glorious,” Illaoi said as she beheld the water lapping at the many stone pillars that jutted out of the ocean.
The pillars demarked the boundaries of what, in a few weeks, would become the Grand Temple of Bilgewater, the first of its kind. Illaoi had envisioned it instantly, the image in her mind as vivid as if Nagakabouros himself had graced her with it. It would be a massive structure, easily reaching past the cliffs that overlooked the docks of Bilgewater. It would have an opening in the middle, right above the ocean, to perform serpent-callings and other sea rituals. Above that would be the temple’s nave, where the faithful would gather to hear the preacher below. And above the nave, there would be round spires that would reach higher than the tallest point in the whole island. Illaoi could almost smell the crisp, clean air of such a height.
She imagined the perpetual motion device floating above the opening to the sea, humming softly in the night. Illaoi could see herself commanding its power to push a wave of magic across Bilgewater, repelling the Black Mist and its hideous undead. And then, the world would hear of Nagakabouros’s power, of his Truth, and pilgrims would come. The speeches she’d give in such a grand temple!
“With everyone backing the project, I’ll be damned if it won’t be,” spoke a voice behind the kraken priestess. She turned to lay eyes on Twisted Fate.
“Card shark,” Illaoi said, both amused and surprised, “I didn’t take you for a religious man.”
Twisted Fate chuckled. Illaoi noticed how it seemed almost too charming. “I’ve sent a prayer or two down the Mother Serpent’s way,” he drawled with a smirk, twirling a blue card between his fingers. “And I always pay my dues to the sea.”
“You? Pay your dues?” Illaoi asked with an incredulous laugh.
“Mortals ain’t the same as the gods, preacher,” he replied. “I never get on a god’s bad side.”
“Never know when you’ll need divine intervention,” she joked. They both laughed. It was strange, to hear careless laughter in the docks. One could never get used to it.
“I bet you a Silver Serpent you have more wharf rats trying to get a bite of the church than a fresh corpse in the Slaughter Docks,” Twisted Fate commented casually, moving a red card from one finger to the next.
“Heh,” Illaoi replied, “nothing I can’t handle. Everyone wants the Truth Bearer’s favour, this is no different. If you want a good show, come by the Institute tomorrow. I’ll be doing a hearing for the grand temple’s denomination. If we get lucky, we’ll have a proper fight before they cast pacifying enchantments on the room.”
Twisted Fate slid into the packed room with the ease of a man that could swim through a crowd like a fish could swim through the sea. Illaoi was sitting at a table on one end of a room, and all around her people vociferated and argued.
“You are addled if you think the church of Nagakabouros will share its Grand Temple with heretics!” a tattooed man said to a Marai woman, the contempt in his eyes laid bare for all to see.
“And you are a fool if you think we’ll let some old human stop us!” she snapped right back. “People already forget that Bilgewater is more than humans!”
“And don’t you think that the Mother Serpent is the only religion in the city either!” interjected a young man, his hair dyed white and silver.
“You are all ridiculous!” the old man said, rearing back. “You have no identity! A temple that caters to all may as well cater to none! All it will do is dilute the words of Nagakabouros in a cacophony of nonsense!”
“Hah! Now that’s rich,” the Marai replied. “I’ll take a diluted message over an outdated institution that looks down on everyone else.”
Next to them, Illaoi sighed. She hefted her idol and then brought it down upon the table with a tremendous noise, startling half the congregation. “I will speak now,” she said in the stunned silence. “I will recognise two petitions. The first one, put forth by the church of Nagakabouros, seeks that the Grand Temple become an exclusive place of worship for the church of Nagakabouros. The second petition, put forth by… several people, seeks that the Grand Temple become a place of worship for the church of Nagakabouros, the Marai, Lunari, Atlanteans and ‘other minority religions’.”
There was a pause as Illaoi made sure to double-check the paper at her table.
“Good. I will submit this matter to public vote. In a week’s time, we will gather again and I will make a decision.” She looked at her audience and saw many opening their mouths to argue further. She glared at them. “We’re all adjourned.”
And with that, she rose to her feet and marched out, forcing the crowd to make way for her. There were several interjections of surprise and protest, but she did not heed them. Instead, she addressed the handsome man that had slinked out of the room alongside her and had been tailing her without a sound. Their walk through the Institute halls was amenable, after the ruckus of the meeting.
“I told you it would be a good show.”
Twisted Fate chuckled. “Bilgewater always gets rowdy when you cram too many of us together. Always something to argue about.”
“I’ve come to learn that is the case,” she replied pensively. “A shame. Were Bilgewater truly united, it could rival Demacia and Noxus with the support of the native islanders.”
“Is that what the fancy church’s supposed to do?”
“Hrm. A priestess can dream,” Illaoi grunted.
“Dreams and a Silver Serpent will get you an ale at a cheap tavern,” he commented slyly.
“And you’d know all about that,” she riposted.
They laughed. Spirits were high in Bilgewater, bickering notwithstanding. To think that a scant few years ago, they were but a poverty-stricken nation of pirates and thieves, with only a handful of Champions and Summoners to call their own. Nyroth had changed everything. Food, dyes, medicinal herbs, fabrics, all things that they had had to import before, was now grown in Nyroth and flooded Bilgewater’s markets. Trade was better than ever, with a significant portion of the nation choosing “honest” trading over dangerous swashbuckling.
And now, it seemed that Nagakabouros’s favour was with them once more, guiding them to victory upon victory. The Marai were leading a crusade to cleanse the oceans. The Atlanteans were flourishing. The native islanders were slowly opening to the rest of the world, and particularly to the port-city of Bilgewater. Even the Lunari were emerging from the shadows and becoming an active part of the world once more.
It was dangerous, Illaoi thought as she bid Twisted Fate farewell. Too much power too quickly was a recipe for disaster. It had been by her will alone that Gangplank had recovered a semblance of power in the city. It was a ghost, of course, a shadow of what it had been at its peak, but it was enough that none dared upset it, not yet. Gangplank would have to give it his all if he wanted his title of “Reaver King” to mean anything, and Fortune would have to do the same if she wanted to truly end him. Had she not intervened, Gangplank would’ve withered away in some tavern, drinking his rancor away. Fortune would’ve heard, at some point, but by then it would’ve been too late. She would’ve had to live with the knowledge that she had failed.
She had done what was best for them, but had she done what was best for Bilgewater? Ilaoi didn’t know. She was never one for the delicate art of politics. She knew people, she knew who they were and what made them move. That was where her keenness lay. Bilgewater was much like its docks. Many of its people were still, rotting with burdens they were too afraid to shake off. Without motion, without flow, the rot would never wash off. And eventually, it would kill them.
So many people needed her help and Nagakabouros’s wisdom. They needed a strong push to set themselves in motion. She thought of the Grand Temple.
Let it be that push.
Bilgewater must choose! The Grand Temple of Bilgewater is under construction, but its denomination is a source of great conflict. Should the Grand Temple be dedicated exclusively to the church of Nagakabouros, or should it be a pantheistic temple that caters to all the faiths found in Bilgewater? Pleasing the church of Nagakabouros will do wonders when it comes to rescuing old traditions, but perhaps the right choice is to embrace the future and modernity. Each choice will come with a consequences as well, with the monotheistic church of Nagakabouros running the risk of being too stuck in its ways and outdated, while the pantheistic choice running the risk of becoming an identity-less melting pot.
Bilgewater dedicated the temple to all of Bilgewater’s gods, rather than solely Nagakabouros.
Freljord: The Next Step
“This is why mages are weak!” Sejuani shouted. Her icy eyes glared daggers at the Summoners around her. The room was very cold, even for a Freljord delegation. “You let others use words and spells to steal what should belong to us!”
“The regulations of the League…” a particularly brave Summoner began, before being cut off by Sejuani’s outraged interjection.
“Regulations are word-snares that the weak use to overpower the strong!” she snapped. “Where is your pride?!” she asked, directing the question at the Summoners around her. “I was there, on the Fields. Your thoughts were hesitant, you had no pack-sense, you allowed the others to surround you like elks!”
The Summoners, this time, remained silent. Some of them had defiant gazes, as though to seek to shed blame, but they still respected Sejuani enough not to insult her with excuses.
“Many of you were too cowardly to show, even!” she continued. “Did any of you think of your tribesmen and families back home? They’re counting on you to find Ylsa’s Memory, to represent the Freljord on the Fields!” Sejuani paused and made sure to look at each of the Summoners in turn. “You have shamed them. You have shamed them and your ancestors. You all turned away from your path in the tribe, and for this?”
Sejuani walked towards the door of the meeting room, too disgusted to make eye contact with any of the Summoners. Bristle was waiting outside. She stopped with a hand on the knob. “If you returned to the Freljord today, you would freeze to death. There is no fire in your blood.”
When the door slammed behind her, there was a long, awkward silence.
“She has a point,” a Summoner said eventually.
“She doesn’t understand…” another began, before a knock on the door interrupted them.
“Summoners,” spoke Lissandra as she entered the room. Unlike the champion before her, the Princess of the Frostguard seemed completely unfazed by the Freljord’s defeat on the Fields. “Since we were unable to procure the waters of the Serpent Isles, we must turn our attention elsewhere.”
“But every stabilising agent we’ve tried has yielded no results,” a Frostguard Summoner pointed out.
“Indeed, which is why we must take some risks. As it stands now, the ‘Draught of Eternity’ will be the last resort of the desperate and little more. We can do better,” she declared with a firm nod. “My people and I have done some research, cross-referencing the libraries of the Frostguard with those of the Institute, and we have discovered a few potential substitutes. However, they will not come without cost upon cost. The advantage of the waters we lost was that they carried little to no resonance of their own. These other agents are… more temperamental. They will alter the Draught in ways we cannot fully predict yet.”
“What are the options?”
Lissandra gestured at one of the Summoners in the room. Freya quickly stepped forward and began chanting, generating an illusion next to her roughly half the size of a person. The illusion depicted several sketches and illustrations superimposed on one another, each filling out details that the others were missing.
“All of them involve braving the depths near the divine nexus. The first option is the Forbidden Necropolis of Avalas,” the Summoner began, as the sketches showed images of a semi-circular building that was both tall and wide. From the outside, the building looked like a massive curved wall, with polished alabaster giving it a timeless finish and a gray plant stretching like dozens of slender hands from the ground to the very top. The ground around it was dry and rocky, raw and unforgiving. The central courtyard inside had pathways that met under a dead oak tree, and curved stone stairs on the sides. From the inside, the thousands of arches that lined the floors and overlooked the courtyard were gateways to darkness, secrets entombed in the silence of a desolated land.
“It was originally located on a tiny island between Noxus and Bilgewater that was considered neutral ground. None of the living were allowed to set foot inside unless they were interring someone. Many important mages and heroes were buried there once, before one of the Rune Wars pushed the island off into the sea, where it sank,” the Summoner gestured at a map on the wall. “Scouts have reported seeing ruins that match the descriptions near the divine nexus. Should we gain access to it, it is said that every external wall is covered in Silverleaf Ivy, a plant specially cultivated to ensure the dead remained dead and incorrupt. The distillation of a plant aligned with the metaphysical concept of purity might be what we’re looking for.”
“But how can you be sure that the plant survived all this time under the sea?” another Summoner inquired.
“According to several sources, the plant was empowered to thrive regardless of condition,” Lissandra answered. “In their foresight, the builders of the Forbidden Necropolis sought to ensure that the building could defend itself without any of the living to watch over it. The enchantments cast upon it are said to be powerful indeed.”
“It can’t be that easy, surely.”
“Stories of the Forbidden Necropolis and its protections abound,” Freya said. “The walls are said to be built with hallowed stone and its mortar made with holy water. Traps are said to lie in wait for those who’d disturb the sleep of the dead, as well as guardian constructs masquerading as statues. There is also one account that claims that there is a watchful intelligence directing the defences, an ancient ghost or spirit that has become one with the building itself.”
Freya changed the illusion to display other images. These showed the trembling sketches of a nightmarish construction: a tall, slender building made of polished bone, with sharp spires reaching out from its peak like the fingers of a dead man rising from the grave. In the thin windows, the artists had drawn hands clawing at the glass, and one could almost hear the wails of the damned echoing from inside.
“There is also the Bone Tower of Kalakh-Ishan,” Freya resumed her exposition. “In the times before the Blessed Isles became the Shadow Isles, tyrants like Mordekaiser sought eternity through necromancy. Some authors claim that the fear of this dark art was what led otherwise cautious mages to delve into the dangerous realm of Rune Magic, leading to the bloody history we all know.” She paused to clear her throat. “The Bone Tower was originally part of an archipelago near what is currently Icathia, and the necromancer that dwelled within was infamous for snatching villagers from both Demacia and Noxus in the middle of the night.”
The Summoner changed the illusion to display the portrait of two grim women in peasant’s clothes, one redhaired, one brunette. The redhaired woman clutched a staff with a Demacian holy symbol strapped to it and a kite shield with no heraldry; the brunette held a burning torch and an old dagger that looked more like a hunting knife. All the items had seen better days.
“According to the legend, neither country wanted to commit resources to facing a dangerous enemy that was merely preying on outlying villages. This lack of action led two grieving farmers, one Demacian and one Noxian, to meet near the Bone Tower, each having lost their family to the depredations of the tyrant and seeking to avenge them or die trying. Together and armed with nothing but old family heirlooms, they braved the dangers of the tower to slay the necromancer. Days later, when Demacian troops had finally been allowed to wage war upon the Bone Tower, they found the necromancer dead. The two farmers had avenged their loved ones, but paid the ultimate price. Noxian spies that had been following the Demacian troops reported their findings and each nation brought their commoner hero home, celebrating their accomplishments while quietly erasing the other country’s involvement.”
“And what is the ingredient… in this tower…?” asked one of the Summoners hesitantly.
“The bone itself, of course,” Freya replied, shifting the illusions to show a rough map of an archipelago that ended abruptly. “See, after the necromancer was slain, the Bone Tower gained a reputation for being haunted. The most prevalent legend claimed that while most of the tortured souls had moved on, the spectres of the two commoners roamed the building to ensure that none would plunder the necromantic secrets still within. One ambitious young mage, a Shuriman obsessed with reclaiming the glory of the past and enslaving it to his will, claimed the Bone Tower for himself. The two spectres, unable to defeat him, began haunting roads and temples, warning the living about the danger that loomed upon them.”
“I think I’ve heard of that, actually,” one of the Summoners pointed out.
“Indeed, the cooperation between mages that ensued afterwards is one of the precedents cited with paving the way for the Institute itself. When the warnings were heeded at last and mages of several nations marched upon the Bone Tower, they found that the place empowered the Shuriman necromancer in ways that were rather worrying. Once he was slain, the mages resolved to cleanse the tower from its necromantic affinity by infusing the bone itself with Life magic. This changed the location’s arcanosphere completely, destroying its natural Death resonance. Not content with that, however, the mages also sunk part of the archipelago into the ocean, to ensure that their work would not be undone.”
“So the bone is now Life-aligned,” a Summoner interjected, “and adding a bit of bonedust to the Draught would… hrm,” he paused and scratched his head. “It wouldn’t cleanse the elemental residue, like the Silverleaf Ivy. But it would… prevent the freezing side-effect?”
“Not quite,” Lissandra replied. “The bone dust would be added prior to the potion being passed through the true ice piece. If Einjhar’s First Principle still holds, the Draught will be so charged with healing and life that other magics will be diminished, if not suppressed entirely.”
Freya changed the illusions once more. This time, the illustrations and sketches depicted a luscious garden or orchard. Great trees were heavy with fruit, flowers of every colour lined curving pathways, along with bushes and shrubbery of all types. There was even one path that had trees along both sides, which had been sculpted to hang over the pathway like a canopy. The trees had, instead of leaves, flower petals of soft pastel colours. One artist had captured the moment where the wind had shaken the branches and myriad petals had begun drifting down gently.
“The last possibility is the Lost Garden of Prince Yren. Those who are from Demacia will remember the fable of Prince Yren and its moral about ambition,” Freya began. She saw a good amount of Summoners nodding. “One of you mind sharing a summary of the tale?”
A young Summoner stood immediately, his stiff posture a sign of his proud Demacian upbringing. “The tale says that Prince Yren was one of the many children of King Tristan V, who had chosen to grant each of his sons stewardship over a different part of Demacia in order to build their character. Being the youngest, Yren had been granted only the land around the town of Blessed Shire, which was nonetheless a very fertile, bountiful land. Prince Yren was jealous of his brothers, who had been tasked to oversee more important parts of Demacia, so he used the land’s blessings to grow a garden of natural wonders.”
“There are many conflicting accounts about what the garden contained,” Freya commented.
“Yes, because he did not allow many visitors to glimpse it. Eventually, everything praiseworthy in the Prince was said to come from some plant in his garden. His handsome looks from the oils of a hundred roses, his cleverness from green apples that were actually peaches in disguise, his strength from the tough leaves of the greensong plant, even his youth was said to be preserved by drinking the dew that gathered on the lily petals at dawn.”
“And that was the moral, wasn’t it? That trying to be more than you are would end up undoing all your accomplishments?” another Summoner said snidely. “How very Demacian.”
“Prince Yren was not satisfied with his lot in life,” the Demacian Summoner replied defensively. “He should have humbly accepted his place and strived to do his best in it.”
“That’s not the point,” Freya intervened. “The important part is that eventually he was accused of dark sorcery. When the Demacian priesthood decreed that he would be purified with holy fire, Prince Yren excised the Blessed Shire from Demacia and attempted to take his new island and escape into the sea, but the magic failed him and they instead sunk into the depths. The most agreed-upon theory, judging from some strange findings by the place where Blessed Shire used to be, is that the Prince had a powerful patron of Fae nature. Prince Yren had no talent for magic and would have had no knowledge of how to obtain the plants of his garden, even if the land was so blessed that it could support them.”
“So you think that in this… Fae garden, we’ll find some plant or another to complete the Draught,” another Summoner stated warily.
The discussion was interrupted by a knock on the door. Queen Ashe entered the room.
“What excellent timing,” Lissandra said with a small bow. “We had just finished explaining our plans to the Summoners.”
“Good,” Ashe said, “because I wanted to inform them of a more practical concern.”
“By all means, we were just leaving,” Lissandra replied as she gestured at Freya.
Once the two had left the room, Ashe began, “Regardless of how the Draught is finished, there is an important matter we must all discuss. People like Sejuani and Lissandra, for one reason or another, would like to keep the Draught secreted away in the Freljord. I am here to tell you that there is a world beyond our homeland. If this potion is as good as Lissandra claims it will be, it will fetch a very good price. And not only that, it will drastically improve our standing in the international community. Support me in this, Summoners,” she said, looking intently at the crowd around her. “You are worldly, cultured people. You understand that nations must become united if we are to survive.”
Ashe walked towards the door. “Let this be the Freljord’s gift to the world. Thank you,” she said with a nod, then left the room.
The Freljord must choose! This is a two-for-one, so consider both answers carefully! The first decision is what dangerous sunken ruins to explore in order to find the stabilising agent for the Draught of Eternity: the Forbidden Necropolis of Avalas, the Bone Tower of Kalakh-Ishan, or the Lost Garden of Prince Yren. Secondly, the Freljord must choose what to do with the Draught of Eternity once finished: share with the rest of the world, or keep it jealously guarded from foreigners?
The Freljord sought out the Lost Garden of Prince Yren. Through its investigation, it found the last ingredient needed to complete the Draught of Eternity, which it shared with the League and all of Valoran.
Story Expansion: Bilgewater
ShadowKnight1224 added some extra lore for Bilgewater.
Bilgewater’s fleet had assembled a good distance away from the ominous darkness that roamed the sea. Its inky blackness was noticeable even on an overcast, foggy day; it was as though the darkness was a thick, almost solid force that drew the eye. Its depth seemed endless, like the sky on a clear night.
“There is only one of us that knows what’s truly in there,” Nami said, looking askance at the black waters.
Those present turned to the hulking diving suit that stared forward in silence.
“Evil,” Nautilus spoke gravely. “Gets inside, whispers.” He paused. “Hungers.”
“The light of the moon vanquishes all darkness,” said a grim young man, his hair dyed silver and white. He had painted crescent symbols on his face in silvery paint, the kind with powdered metal in it so that he glinted under the cold gray light.
“Nagakabouros is with us,” a motherly priestess spoke with confidence. “We are moving. We will prevail.”
“Nature abhors it,” an old Marai said. His hair and scales had turned white with age, but time had not dimmed the life in his green eyes. “I can feel the sea and the land below shifting with disgust. The reeds wither before it. No animal goes near: they know. If I call upon its power, the sea will grant it to me. It wants this cleansed as much as we do. It is not natural.”
“Everyone, let’s get in position,” Nami said, gesturing towards the ocean. Zomo was by her side, wielding a coral staff with a silver blade at its tip.
Nami and the old Marai jumped offboard and began to swim away from the fleet but parallel to the dark waters, as if to cut off its escape. Other ships began to fan out, pointing their cannons at the blackness. The young man called out to his fellow devotees, and they began praying to the sky. It was dusk, but the moon was already out. The priestess extended her hands over the ship’s railing and started to chant. The followers of Nagakabouros in other ships followed suit. Under the ocean’s surface, several Marai had encircled the pillar of darkness. Their warriors wielded spears, tridents and bladed staffs, all which shimmered with the telltale glint of enchantment. Their spellcasters and clerics closed their eyes and listened for the sounds of the sea, subtle magic swirling in the water around them.
The clouds parted. The praying of the Lunari got louder, and as the moon shone above the setting sun, a great ray of pure moonlight came down onto the black waters. There was a hissing sound, and then a scream of rage, so loud that it could be heard across the entire fleet. The sea grew tempestuous.
The priests of Nagakabouros finished their chant, and the Marai below saw the coming of great serpents, including one whose gills fanned into the shape of wings and flew across the sky as easily as it swam under the sea. The great beasts surrounded the pillar of blackness warily. They did not want to go near it.
The old Marai had reached a deep trance. He could see his surroundings, though his eyes were closed. He could feel the rage coming from the dark waters, as well as hunger and hatred. He reached out to the water around him, the sea floor below him, even to the air far above him. He called upon them with his mind, asking for their help with every formality he had been taught. He sensed an agreement, a unity of will. He felt the rapid heartbeats of his fellows, the thundering of the sea serpents’ hearts. Life was all around him. He drew from that purity, from that raw essence, and joined it with the strength that the elements lent him.
“Begone, foulness!” he shouted, thrusting his arms at the darkness. A rush of water emerged from his palms. Though the water seemed just like the sea around him, it was different, in a way only the other clerics realised. When it came into contact with the blackness, there was another scream of rage. The darkness dissolved around his hallowed water like a cloud of smoke under a strong wind.
Tendrils of pure darkness lunged from the pillar like snakes, all aiming for the old Marai cleric, but his people were ready. Warriors thrust their blessed weapons at them, easily piercing the water and then letting the magic in their weapons disrupt the evil within. Sorcerers cast barriers around their elder, deflecting the shapeless tentacles and allowing the clerics to dissolve them with blessings.
When a gigantic tendril sought to pierce the defences of the Marai, Nami herself commanded the waters of the ocean to halt it in its step, and then empowered Zomo’s bladed staff to cleanse it with a decisive slash.
Above water, the Lunari clerics were doubling down on their prayers, the moonlight ray growing in intensity. The surface of the black waters bubbled, generating waves that rocked the fleet around it. More tentacles of unhallow water emerged to strike at the vessels, but the serpent callers of Nagakabouros directed their sea beasts to defend them. The great creatures bit into the impure waters and by the grace of their god their jaws destroyed them in one bite.
For good measure, the sailors of Bilgewater fired at the darkness in the water. It was unclear whether it was effective at first, but when mages hurried to their sides and empowered each cannon salvo, it soon began to enrage the blackness even further. The Summoners on the fleet were soon hard pressed to keep every vessel intact, and the sailors manning the ships against the now rowdy sea could hear the frantic shouting of spells and the terrible crackles of violent force meeting magical barriers.
The battle raged on, with the darkness itself rising from the sea in a gigantic black wave and attempting to swallow half the fleet whole, which was foiled only by the cooperation between the different faiths of Bilgewater directing their resources and magic towards the same point. When the young skyseeker leviathan, empowered by the magic of the Lunari and the Marai, crashed against the black wave to save Bilgewater’s fleet, something from deep within the blackness roared in untold anger.
“My god!” Illaoi shouted as she sent out ghostly tentacles to wrestle with the tendrils of blackness, “Demands! Motion! NOW!” And with that battlecry, she jumped off board, bronze idol high above her head. Illaoi landed atop the black waters idol-first, the impact causing a shockwave of cyan energy. Instead of sinking, she was repelled by the black waters, as though they were unable to devour something so holy.
“Press the attack! It’s weakening!” shouted a captain from one of the fleet’s ships. And indeed, the black waters were thinning, unable to withstand the cleansing magic assailing it from all sides
“There’s something… inside!” a Summoner cried out, eyes glowing with the deep blue of clairvoyance magic. Nautilus, who had stood still on the deck of one of the ships, only moving to destroy a black tendril that came near him, began to walk towards the sea.
“What are you doing?!” a Summoner asked, incredulous.
“I remember him,” Nautilus replied ponderously. He hefted his anchor as he stood next to the water’s edge. “His time has come.” And with that, the Titan of the Depths stepped off the ship and sank into the ocean like a stone. When he hit the sea floor, he walked, slowly but with unflinching determination, towards the blackness.
As the battle raged above him, he walked into the thinning darkness and willed himself upwards, to the shape. He cast his anchor towards it, but the metal went right through.
“Come!” Nautilus shouted, the challenge booming across the water. “And face me,” he added, the vindictiveness that drove him shining through.
The shape was that of a humanoid, but off. It had jutting… spines, or perhaps horns, from what would be the arms, the legs and the head. Its hands and feet looked like exaggerated claws, it had a strange barbed tail, and the shape of its head did not resemble anything that still remained in Runeterra.
“You,” the shape hissed with disgust. “The one that could not be consumed. Brought fleshlings with child-magic.” Nautilus said nothing, and instead swung his anchor towards it, sending powerful ripples across the sea. The ripples disrupted the black waters, causing the shape to shudder. “Leave me. You cannot hurt me, metal shell.”
From above, another salvo of cannons coincided with Illaoi slamming her idol onto the waters once more. Their dissolution hastened. The shape dove towards Nautilus at a blinding speed, but stopped just short of his face. There was a hint of fangs somewhere near the head region.
“Tell them this, husk,” it whispered. “They cannot kill me. I am older than their gods and their magic.” The shape looked up, where the last of the black waters were dissolving and the marai and sea serpents were closing in. Nautilus swung his anchor uselessly at the creature. “I am hunger and death. I will remember, when I return.” The dark shape began to swim away, its undulations unnatural, like a cross between a shark and an eel. “I will return and I will feast!”
“No!” Nautilus shouted after it. “Never again!”
Hours later, as Nautilus was being reeled in by a hextech device attached to the fleet’s flagship, the festivities were in full swing. The young priestess of Nagakabouros that had begun the chant was performing her healing magic on the skyseeker leviathan, which was in turn casually eating from the enormous cargo hold full of fish that one of the ships had brought to reward the sea serpents.
“It is not over,” the Titan told the Summoner that inquired as to his encounter with the blackness. “It lives on, in the depths.”
The joyous shouting was a stark contrast to the dismay in the Summoner’s face. “What… what are we going to do?” he asked tentatively.
“We will hunt it down,” Nautilus replied in that deep, rumbling tone that was so common of him. It was… reassuring, actually. It gave the Summoner confidence, to hear the Titan’s quiet confidence.
There was some sort of… ancient, dark creature hiding in the depths near the divine nexus, but its main weapon and protection had been destroyed. It would no longer prey on those that sailed the seas, at least not in that powerful form.
That day, the ocean was made a little safer.
Story Expansion: Bandle City
AbiwonKenabi also added some extra lore, for Bandle City.
“This is a day that we have eagerly awaited. Education is essential in today’s world, for political and safety reasons, but also for happiness. The Yordles of Argyre are an intelligent, resilient people who deserve all the chances that are afforded to other civilizations by the League of Legends. And so, with the support of the Institute of War and…Icathia, I, Mayor Dennison Jadefellow of Bandle City, by the power vested in me, am pleased to announce the start of the Argyre Academic Program.”
Camellia joined in the clapping. She was glad she forced Jadefellow to give the speech to her first before presenting it to the audience. His writers were all yes-men; they would have told him the speech was perfect even if he drooled during it. Camellia made sure he gave the speech properly, and didn’t offend anyone in the meantime.
All around her, various Bandle Generals and other Yordles of import shivered in the Argyre cold. They were surrounded by a sea of white fur; Camellia had been told that every tribe on Argyre was in attendance in some capacity. A few Freljord diplomats were also present. The Freljord was eager to jump on Bandle the second they overstepped their control of anything outside the realm of “education”. Cami huffed at the thought. If they were smart, they’d be less concerned with keeping them confined to “education” and more concerned about just how much influence they could exert by educating.
Camellia gazed off at Lanpoa, its peak showing just over a nearby hill. Argyre was an ally she had had her eye on for a while. The League had given jurisdiction over the island primarily to the Freljord, but since the appearance of the divine nexus, relations between Bandle City and Argyre had been re-opened thanks to their common love of their respective idol ship. When Tristana and Jadefellow made the move to support the Argyrian petition to the League for more education, things couldn’t have worked out better than if Camellia had planned it. She smirked at the thought.
Mayor Jadefellow introduced another speaker, Timi’u. The short Yordle had been in contact with Bandle City, assisting in many key information excursions. Though Cami had never spoken with him, he seemed to have spunk, and didn’t back down from using what little influence he had gained recently to bring Argyre into modern times. Teaching them the more advanced magics of Valoran was the first step to that.
“Forgive my wordspeak, my Valoran is not very good,” Timi’u began, squinting at a paper in his paw. He seemed to give up reading it and instead approached the podium gazing out at the crowd. “I think I speak for all Argyrians when I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for this opportunity. It is exciting to think of the future possibilities that this will bring to my small land. Our young deserve this chance for new understanding, and I thank Bandle City for making it happen. Special thanks to Tristana, for being the first to listen to Argyre’s plight, and Mayor Jadefellow, for presenting my petition before the League. Thank you to the League of Legends for providing so many learning resources. And…. thanks to Icathia, for sending many very… good advisors to help pass the petition before the League.”
Timi’u winced at the final words, before excusing himself off-stage and stepping down. Cami narrowed her eyes, scanning the crowd again. The Icathians representatives were easy to spot, being much taller than most of the crowd and clothed mostly in purple. As the ceremony adjourned, Camellia shoved her way through the crowd towards them.
She didn’t quite make it, and was accosted by Timi’u. “Ah, you are General… forgive my mispronouncing… Ka-Me-Lee-Ah?”
Cami saluted. “That’s right. General Camelia at your service. You need no introduction sir. Bandle City knows all about Timi’u the Wise.”
Timi’u chuckled, “Is that what they are calling me? I must admit, I do not know much about Bandle City culture. I do not know whether to be flattered or feel insulted.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll be able to learn all about us,” Cami smiled.
“I thank you, General. Mayor Jadefellow told me you are one of his most trusted advisors. Thank you for your part in the Academic Program.”
Cami waved a hand. “I can’t take much credit on this one. I’m just glad everything worked out. The little guys deserve their rights, too. I consider us somewhat comrades in that regard.”
Timi’u nodded, causing his ears to flap. “I welcome our friendly terms. I hear you are a skilled warrior, no? You won an amazing battle against the Otherworlders, they say.”
Cami’s eyes flashed over to where the Icathians were, mingling amongst a few nervous looking Yordles. She hoped they weren’t overhearing this. She had spearheaded the alliance between Bandle City and Icathia. It would look bad if she was boasting about her fight against the Void back in the pyrhikhos dispute. Her ears flipped as one of the Icathians approached.
“A story for another time, perhaps,” Cami said shortly. She adjusted her coat, regaining her grin as the Icathian approached. “Naqi. Didn’t expect you to attend the ceremony.”
“Of course, General. After all the work we put into making sure that petition stood before the League. We reap what we sow, and the cycle begins anew,” she purred.
Cami wasn’t sure what Naqi meant by that, so she just nodded, keeping her gaze locked with the Icathian’s eyes. One was a glowing purple, the other a deep brown.
Naqi continued. “I look forward to continuing work on making sure the program is up to snuff. We wouldn’t want you Yordles falling behind now would we?”
She looked down to Timi’u. His joviality had disappeared and his eyes darted back and forth between Naqi and the ground. He gave a curt nod.
Naqi smiled. “It’s a shame that Bandle City couldn’t… find the resources to support Icathia’s petition. Korzari must have so many interesting things to say… her mind is so incredible. Have you seen it?”
Underneath her smile, Cami tensed. “Can’t say that I have,” she replied.
“Oh yes, a good mind, that one. It was disappointing when Bandle City was able to conjure the strength to best us on the Fields. We had an agreement though, and we of course obliged. How… lucky it was that Icathia had such an influence on the program, hm?”
Cami’s smile finally disintegrated. “Lucky?”
“Oh yes. Thanks to our influence, we mustered this program before the League. It was quite a simple matter for our masters to navigate your mortal laws and ensure success.”
“I’m sure Bandle is perfectly capable of doing so under normal circumstances,” Cami seethed through gritted teeth. She tried to regain her pleasant smile, to no avail.
“Of course,” Naqi replied, “If you’ll excuse me, General Camellia, my Icathian brothers and sisters are calling me.” Camellia listened, but heard no such call. “I am sure we will be seeing one another again soon, Timi’u. After all, we must make sure the Academic Program stays on track.”
Timi’u furrowed his brow, giving a nod. He and Cami watched Naqi wade through the crowd.
“I may be out of line, and I am certainly not ungrateful,” Timi’u said, “But, that woman unnerves me. Like a stale pie in my gut.”
Camellia frowned. “They helped us, and that’s what matters. We won’t need them soon anyways.”
“What makes you say that?”
Camellia adjusted her gloves, a slight smirk returning to her face. “We won on the Fields, didn’t we? We can beat them. It’s only a matter of time.”