Previous Update: Lore Event IV
By XalkXolc and CupcakeTrap, featuring characters created by JondorHoruku
Edited by CupcakeTrap, AbiwonKenabi, and JondorHoruku
There were few places in Stormhaven where one could find peace and quiet. The young port, a bustling microcosm of its parent nation, constantly rang with the sounds of Valoranian daily life. Institute representatives and enterprising Zaunite business people paced Stormhaven’s street alongside Ionian diplomats and arcane researchers arriving from Blue Flame Island. The noise of construction and expansion made the outskirts of the port as lively as the docks, the constant work bringing workers and suppliers to assist in establishing a presence on the Nyroth coast.
As such, Summoner Janus “XalkXolc” Medlen was finding it very difficult to think.
The captain of The Last Joke’s background in Zaunite hextech made him an ideal candidate for engineering design of the weapons systems being installed on Stormhaven’s inner walls, a project he hoped to complete within the next couple days.
A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, and Janus took a moment to swallow his annoyance.
“Yeah, it’s open.”
The door swung open to reveal a young man with Shuriman features. He was dressed in traveling clothes, a satchel slung over his shoulder.
“Yeah, Mek?” Janus asked, as Mekir motioned for him to follow.
“I got a call going out to all the captains, straight from Miss Fortune, to report immediately to the inner walls. Emergency level urgency, sounds real bad if they’re trying to get everyone together,” came the reply.
The pair began hurrying through the streets, the everyday bustle quickly being replaced by a different sort of activity. Janus took note of the high concentrations of Summoners and pirate captains now walking the streets, all moving in the same general direction. Following the crowd, Janus and Mekir joined the gathering masses in a courtyard close to the walls.
A member of the Riotous Fists Clan stood on the raised wooden platform in the middle of the courtyard, yelling rapid-fire instructions and updates into the waiting ears of those below through a hextech Conal Auditory Notice Enhancer, the speakers around the edge of the courtyard going unused.
“Whatever the hell this is, it came too damn early,” Janus grumbled, “the fact that none of our major logistics are finished setting up is pissing me off. Damn Piltovians can’t get anything done.”
“It’s only been a couple months, captain, but I agree, it could’ve been done faster,” came the reply, “and I actually already got our info. We’re on the walls, they’re hoping we can jury-rig your weapons systems to work on some level, even if it’s not max capacity.”
The two men continued up a precarious wooden scaffolding, onto the walls and over the gate towards the station where the cannons were mounted, massive steel behemoths like miniature versions of the defense turrets used in the defense of Bandle City against Nefara. These, however, were on swiveling stands, their frames lighter and less heavy-duty.
Janus shoved aside the yordle technician sitting at the control panel, glaring at them briefly before staring at the panel itself.
“I mean, I’m sure I can handle rushing some of the final steps, given a few hours, but what the hell is this whole deal about, anyway? What could possibly be so important that we mobilize the entirety of Stormhaven—the Freljordians managing to piss off the Nyrothians?”
“No, cap,” Mekir replied, “Aatrox was spotted by a trade caravan, leading the Shadow Isles toward Stormhaven. They’re attacking.”
“Attacking?!? What the hell do you mean they’re—DAMMIT!” Janus dove to start finishing his work on the defense system as he was interrupted by the thunderous report of distant cannon fire. The naval bombardment had begun.
“DAMN YE TO THE ABYSS, YE WORM-RIDDEN, ROT-FER-BRAINS, DEAD-LIMBED FISHGUT ZOMBIES WITH YER STINKIN’ FLY-FILLED-EYEHOLES! WHY! WON’T! YE! DIE! PROPER!” Kera bellowed out in a voice only a voice trained by storm winds could deliver, punctuating each of her words with a brutal blow. It was enough to send the strongest of men reeling into a coma, but the undead enemies opposite the Yordle Pirate Captain continued to press forward, only for her magic quarterstaff to strike them down one after another.
Another set of strikes against a fresh wave of opponents bought Kera a precious moment to breathe as the Isles’ horde faltered for a brief lull. Sparing a momentary glance, she swept her gaze around to check on the status of her crew.
It wasn’t pretty.
Taroi was pulling Rowan back away from enemy lines. The Ursine’s heavy paw was wrapped around the Noxian healer’s torso as Taroi sprinted away from his place in the defensive line for the moment it took him to deliver his ally’s body to Shira. Sensible, Kera thought. It’d keep the load off Shira so the Marai wouldn’t have to shoulder the duties of two healers.
A nanosecond later, Kera pulled her attention back to her own battle as a Neritian swordsman clad in black stepped forward to begin a powerful overhead strike directly at her forehead. Kera sidestepped and jabbed her quarterstaff towards the swordsman’s chest, only for him to pivot and the stone to scrape along his cuirass.
The two disengaged and paced warily for a moment. Kera lunged into a feint toward the swordsman’s exposed legs, breaking the silence of the duel as the swordsman parried before Kera brought the staff in a wide sweep across his helm. He fell in a heap, a skeleton clambering over him to take his place.
It’d been a long day, and it was barely late morning. The armies of the Isles were vast, even after the ongoing naval bombardment from the bay. The crew of The Dredger had lost significant ground despite their lack of casualties and marginal success, yet most other crews had it even worse. Often, a lack of discipline would give way to a coward’s rout, or a broken chain of command became the catalyst for a larger crew dissolving into dozens of futile brawls. Whatever the reason, Bilgewater’s collective back was against the wall as the might of the Isles was brought to bear against the pirate nation.
Fortunately, Barta cared little. Howling each triumph to the winds, the Pan Wielder earned her title with every swing. Forming the heart of The Dredger’s defensive line, none could pass the cook as Slade fired his dual pistols into the encroaching undead.
“We’re losin’, Arkin,” he yelled at the yordle slinging magic daggers nearby, “and I hate losin’.”
“Only gets better,” the assassin growled, gesturing upwards.
Slade back stepped away from the defensive line, glancing upward toward the skies above the Isles’ army, just in time for a massive shadow the shape of a bone dragon to cast itself over the fighting.
“I heard they call ‘im Mr. Chompers.”
The Dead Pool, the pride of the Bilgewater fleet, the flagship, the great galleon of the Saltwater Scourge, the mightiest vessel that had ever graced Nyroth’s waters, had cut its way through the Guardian’s Sea into Monsku’s harbor. This was the ship that made common sailors white with dread, and strong men run for their lives.
And it was being torn apart.
The bone dragon descended directly atop the ship’s deck. Its wings, hardened and sharpened by the necromantic energies that held the beast together, scythed through the thick timbers of the masts. They toppled into the water, dragging their lines down into the bay as they sank.
Gangplank’s crew swarmed around the deck, attempting to patch the damage as Mr. Chompers ripped across the length of the ship. The Saltwater Scourge himself stood at the helm, glaring angrily at the massive undead abomination annihilating his livelihood.
A low growl broke out from Gangplank’s throat as he addressed the Summoner standing at his right hand.
“Ye ever heard ‘a scrimshaw, Summoner? Because I say we get a little practice in.”
Unsheathing his cutlass and drawing his flintlock, the Saltwater Scourge fired shot after shot into the dragon’s frame, the shots connecting with Chompers’ bones with audible taps. The lack of damage was frustrating, but Gangplank’d be damned if he let this dragon take down the Dead Pool without a fight. He lined up another pistol shot at Mr. Chompers’ face, and a segment of bone around the eye socket flew off with an audible blast. The dragon roared in anger and turned its empty eyes, now incomplete, towards the pirate.
“How’s that feel, me hearty?”
As he charged, Gangplank felt the familiar presence of Summoner Darkomega242 flow into his mind. Darkomega’s arcane assistance gave yet greater strength to the Pirate King, and as he brought his cutlass down towards the serpent’s right foreleg, taking a chunk out of the supernatural bone. The dragon, however, seemed not to notice. Gangplank prepared for another volley of attacks upon the bone dragon when the Dead Pool lurched violently.
Mr. Chompers’ forelegs dug into the side of the ship, and began to lift.
As his crew ran desperately to escape the bone dragon’s wrath, the Pirate King redoubled his assault, carving greater pieces out of the bone dragon’s frame. The leg held strong, however, as Gangplank’s maddened fury cut into it repeatedly. Fifty feet into the air, Gangplank hurled himself up the leg’s structure, hoping to reach the thinner bone of the ankle.
Halfway through a leap, Chompers tilted the ship away, and the pirate found nothing to grip. He descended, down towards the water, the promise of immense pain and broken bones as he fell towards the ocean’s surface.
The impact hurt. Of course it did, from a hundred feet. Some men would lose consciousness, break their backs from the landing, but Bilgewater’s most famous captain had been through harsher trials. He turned over onto his front immediately, and began to sprint a broken crawl through the falling wreckage of the Dead Pool. Timbers and splinters splashed into the water as pieces fell from the dragon’s claws.
Mere minutes later, Gangplank pulled himself onto the shore just in time to see Mr. Chompers hurl the remains of his ship through Stormhaven’s gate, shattering months of work. And more importantly, what was left of Gangplank’s prized flagship.
It was at that moment he swore he’d never lose his ship like this again.
Enraged, the Saltwater Scourge threw himself into the fray, hacking at the undead surrounding him.
Stormhaven would not fall this day. Not if Gangplank had anything to say about it.
Aatrox gazed upon the battlefield from high above. Bilgewater’s mercenaries formed a desperate pike-wall at the gap left by the fallen gate of Stormhaven. He reached out to the minds of his Summoners, and extended his voice through them to the tortured souls animating his army of the dead.
YOU CRAVE LIFE. TAKE THEIRS!
Skeletal hands gripped the pike shafts, and as the steel points pierced uselessly through their rib cages, they dragged themselves forward. Their clawlike feet churned the muddy earth. Bone clacked against wood. And as they saw Aatrox’s visions of glory, of victory that would give them back their lives, and smelled the vital force radiating from the hot-blooded creatures that breathed and sweat and trembled before them, their jaws opened with the screams of the abyss.
And Jax was fishing. He sat on the pier, his back to the battlefield.
Aatrox clenched a clawed hand, and gripped the mind of a Summoner below. He knew nothing of necromancy, but he knew ambition. He released her from her fears, her weakness, and with his guidance she grasped the cord of destiny that had run beside her for so long. Her powers amplified beyond measure, she conjured dead flesh together. The magic she channeled mutated the skin and sinew, swelling it and cording it tight around the bones beneath, until an undead titan stood in testament to her will, and the carnage around them.
And Jax was fishing. Aatrox ignored the flicker of purple fabric in his peripheral perception.
The zombie giant pounded its fists against the walls of Stormhaven. Leathery flesh thwacked into stone until the stone broke. Pistols and rifles flashed and smoked, but their bullets sank uselessly into the behemoth. A Summoner threw a spent pistol aside, and drew a sword from his belt. He raised it high, catching the light, and swung it down.
The Smite-bolt shot forth, but broke against the rage of the Summoner animating the undead beast. It staggered back, then bellowed as it surged forward again. Its next blow smashed through the wall. The stone crashed down, and its defenders went with it.
And Jax was fishing.
The undead were swarming through the breach, entering Stormhaven. But, Aatrox knew, that was not where the true battle lay.
He turned his wings into the currents of fate and dove down to the pier, sword ablaze.
“It is time, Jax. If you wish to save them.”
Jax tilted his fishing pole. “Don’t spook the fish,” he muttered.
“Hear their screams. Will you let them perish?”
“Ain’t up to me.”
Aatrox inclined his head. He would find an opening.
“Even if you are but a mercenary, the Marai has hired you. Have you not been paid?”
Jax paused at that. Weakness. Vulnerability. Through the billowing layers upon layers of lies Jax had wrapped himself with, Aatrox saw the glimmer of something worth fighting.
“It’s my lunch break.” The glimmer faded. “Contract doesn’t say I lose my lunch break if we get attacked.”
Aatrox angled his blade as he hovered over Jax, seeking to find the path of the one cut that would pierce the lies. Jax was sitting on a stump at the edge of the pier, stubby legs dangling over. But his defenses were not a matter of footwork or stance. Aatrox was no fool. He would have only one cut to decide victory or defeat. He would wait.
“She could be great,” he whispered, letting the content of his words resound. “I can show her the path, if you will not.”
Jax turned his head. His many eyes fixed upon Aatrox. In that moment, Aatrox nearly felt he had his opening. His wings twitched back. But he held fast. No. Not yet.
Jax answered him. “She ain’t that dumb.”
“Then fight me for her soul,” Aatrox hissed. “For all their souls.”
Jax froze. Aatrox tightened his grip on his sword. Jax had his lamp post in the crook of his right arm, while he held the fishing pole in his left. Now, Aatrox saw Jax’s right hand begin to curl around the lamp post. The lantern shimmered with rising heat.
“Get lost,” Jax snarled. He turned back to the water. But he was on the retreat. He was weak. He was afraid. He was afraid that his lies were unraveling. And they were. He would trip in them, and be cut down, and Aatrox would rule.
Aatrox whirled his sword over his head and dove down. The slash split reality as it arced out toward his eternal nemesis. The clash of metal on metal would be the sweetest sound Aatrox had ever heard.
The lantern light flared—then went out. Jax was afraid. He was powerless. He had surrendered his power to fear.
Jax’s hand turned the fishing pole. The line wove through the water.
And then Jax turned himself, rotating on the stump, tilting into the cut.
The water bubbled.
Aatrox’s slash whipped past Jax, missing by the width of a hand.
Jax snapped his fishing pole back, bringing the hookless line up out of the water.
Something followed it.
Aatrox swept his sword up into position for another strike, and looked to the water. At what was following the line. A vast darkness that dwarfed the pier, dwarfed even the land beside it—
The sea exploded into mammoth tidal waves that swept to either side, and up from the space between arose the kraken. Its maw opened with the bellow of the greatest creature of the coldest depths. The immense boom shook the light and airy world of dry land, much too small to contain it. The kraken had slept since before the continents had formed; now it awoke, and found the new world a trifling thing.
Aatrox fanned his wings to ascend. And then the kraken closed its jaws around him. With one great chomp, his corporeal form was destroyed. His disembodied perception drifted in agony over the pier as Nami swam up in the kraken’s wake and looked to Jax.
Jax glanced up at where Aatrox had been. He stared into the empty space. Aatrox gazed back at him from beyond, his thoughts a whirl of pain and rage. He had been denied his fight. Another trick, another diversion, another delay. And Jax sank back into his lies. Afraid to face him. And yet he had won a victory, of a sort. How?
Jax turned back to Nami as the kraken lurched toward the shore, tentacles unfurling.
“Spooked the fish,” he explained, and tossed the fishing pole into the kraken’s wake.
A wave of cracks and snaps echoed in the distance, as a forest of bone splintered apart. With Aatrox’s power cut off from the mortal world, the Shadow Isles lost their will to conquer, and the army of the dead began to crumble.
It was a wonder what hatred could do. Hatred could create and destroy, it could change history. Hatred could turn a warm heart cold.
Summoner Vince “Silencermage” Silencer had endured much unjustified hatred, as many of his fellow living shunned him for his necromantic practices, his unsettling aura, his association with the unliving.
They’d dismissed him, despite his years spent working to bridge the gap between the living and the undead, his life’s work to make them all understand. The beauty of reanimation was not something to be denied, but embraced and accepted not as an abomination, but a way of life. He’d done so much to help the living come to realize the wonderful truth of undeath.
He’d given them rope, and they’d hung him with it. Perhaps it was time to return the favor. Years upon years of frustration, a mountain of pain over a lifetime of attempts and subsequent rejections. He would show them the utter superiority of undeath, the glory inherent in that necromantic state of being. And what better way to prove one’s dominance than victory in mortal combat?
The world blurred around Vince as he fought his way through the battle, flinging spells, boiling his enemies from the inside out or simply scorching them to a crisp, tearing their souls from their bodies.
He found himself opposite another mage, an enemy clad in purple and brown, her cloak sullied by the scars of battle. They’d been dueling for several minutes, her impressive arcane power proving a match for his. For now, at least. Vince knew that despite her skill, it was only a matter of time before the Isles overcame his target’s magics. He cast another bolt of arcane fire toward the mage.
The instant the flames licked off his fingers, the world snapped back into focus, as if a lens had dropped into place. He stared for a moment at his opponent. Her face was drawn tight, her mouth a thin line. A Summoner. A fellow Summoner, sworn to Bilgewater in the dispute. His flames tore around her, a ward thrown up at the last minute diverting their touch. She shot a torrent of light back towards Vince. He stood stock-still, staring as the bright bolt gouged a trench out of the ground next to him.
The other Summoner stumbled, a look of surprise on her face as her target stood transfixed. She spun rapidly, anxiously checking her flanks for some kind of trick, some kind of ambush.
Vince noticed none of this. As quickly as the world had returned to focus, a cascade of revelations crashed into him. He’d been slaughtering them, murdering dozens. In whose name, for what cause? Hecarim’s? Mordekaiser’s? Aatrox’s. It wasn’t his cause. He’d torn people apart, destroyed them through unimaginable means for a fight he didn’t believe in.
It made him sick. Vince doubled over there on the battlefield and vomited, heaving onto the earth. In panic, he stood up and began to sprint away from his duel, all thoughts of victory lost as he beat a rapid retreat, away from this atrocity, his former opponent staring in disbelief as her gaze surveyed the battlefield.
What she saw, and what Vince failed to see, was his small drama repeating itself all over the battlefield as the might of the Shadow Isles fell to pieces. Around Vince, Summoners, mages, spirits, and undead began to collapse, to wail, to go berserk and tear each other apart. Stormhaven’s defenders looked on in disbelief as the armies of the Isles fractured into a disorganized mess.
Only the mighty bone dragon Mr. Chompers seemed unaffected by Aatrox’s sudden decorporealization, as he traded blow for blow, wound for wound with Bilgewater’s Kraken, the two titans locked in a primal duel.
Vince kept running, joined by a thousand others, slowly becoming aware of those around him. A revelation dawned on Vince as he slowed his sprint to a jog, looking out over the necromantic masses.
The Shadow Isles would never be the same after this moment. One of the moments in history his message could be spread throughout the Isles, and the beauty of undeath could be brought to so many more.
He had to find Karthus.
Next Update: Lore Event VI