Previous Update: Peace
by Agrofox (edited by Montesque 64 and CupcakeTrap)
This epilogue revisits the events of Update 9: Peace, and hints at what is to come.
“One day is all that remains. One day to stake our claim and drive the Ionians from Shon-Xan. One day to teach them the futility of contesting the strength of Noxus.”
Jericho Swain, Grand General of Noxus and the Master Tactician of the Shon-Xan conflict, turned to face his audience, a small assembly comprised of the most influential Noxian Summoners.
“By sunset, we will break them.”
He beckoned to the back of the room, signaling two hooded mages to bring forth their torches. With a few murmured conjurations the bright glow of the fire was replaced with a sickly green light, filling the chamber but offering no warmth. Moments later, the faces of Riven and Darius shimmered into existence, their battle-worn visages made all the more grim by the eerie illumination of the scrying flames. They nodded curtly to Swain and the rest of the High Command, ready to begin the conference.
Debate was fierce. “The legions must return to fight!” one summoner shouted. “The settlement must be maintained at all costs, and only with the vanguard do they stand a chance.”
“You fool!” another summoner roared. “Our forces are stretched thin as it is! It is pointless to send the elite to fight for some civilians and their shacks – they will be overrun in no time at all!”
“Call me a fool, do you? Better than a coward, you gutless worm! And you think yourself a Noxian.”
“I challenge you to a Summoner’s duel – do you accept? Or are you all hiss and no poison, you yellow-bellied snake!”
Swain had observed the exchange in bemusement, but was quickly becoming bored. “Tempers, Summoners. It will not do to fight amongst ourselves in this most critical hour. It’s painfully obvious that wasting the elites will only serve to undermine our strategy. The High Command has decided to order the legions to continue their retreat.”
The announcement contorted Darius’ usual scowl into a gnarled grimace. Swain did not meet his piercing eyes, but continued to face the assembly as he addressed the Hand: “This will not be a problem for you, I am sure.”
“As the High Command wishes, so it shall be.” Darius spat the words out, as though they tasted as disgusting to his tongue as they were offensive to his character. Swain turned to the green flames framing Riven’s face. “You have news for the Command, Exile?”
Riven nodded. “The Ionians have offered terms of surrender far more gracious than we could have hoped. They will allow the refugees to remain in Shon-Xan, provided we evacuate our soldiers immediately.”
Fiery debate rose once again, shouting voices clashing against one another as they echoed throughout the chamber. Swain gestured to one of the hooded mages, who whispered another incantation. The room fell deathly silent as mouths moved without sound, the gathered Summoners settling back into their seats with annoyance as the spell wore off.
Riven took her opportunity to speak uninhibited: “I do not know why the Ionians would relent after their recent victories. Perhaps they are unaware of our greatly diminished numbers, or fear reinforcements. Perhaps they simply wish for this bloodshed to end,” she said, her eyes pained and penetrating, “as I do.” Swain ignored her gaze as he had with Darius, staring straight ahead at the assembly.
“I believe we should accept their terms of surrender,” she continued, “as the settlement –”
“Will be defended until sunset, until the League’s edict takes effect.”
Riven shook her head in disbelief. Surely she must have misheard the Grand General. “There will only be an assault if we refuse surrender, but we –”
“I heard you. You will refuse surrender and defend the settlement,” Swain said. “Will this be a problem, Riven?”
Something within her snapped, and Riven lost all composure as she found herself shouting in frustration. “WHY?! There are innocents, children here! It is not a defeat to accept surrender for them – it is a victory for all the families without homes, all of our people forced from their lands! It is a victory for Noxus – how can you be so blind?” she bellowed at the High Command. Some in the assembly murmured assent, but none of the Noxian leaders yielded to her hostility, prompting her to continue her rant. “They could all die, and for what? A few miles of land and an outpost we cannot possibly hold in the long run?” Riven said fiercely, teeth gritted and hands shaking. “They could all be killed!”
“A calculated risk,” Swain said coldly. “I grow tired of your petulance, Riven. You are a soldier, are you not? You have your orders. Defend your post until the sun sets, or remain exiled forever.” Riven opened her mouth to speak, but Swain’s manic glare halted any further demurral. “This conference is over. The High Command has made its decision. Prepare for battle.”
The scrying flames died suddenly, leaving the chamber dark. Silence held.
“Do not despair, Summoners,” Swain grinned horribly. “Our situation is not nearly as dire as you may have been led to believe. I neglected to inform our dear Exile, for reasons that will become apparent…but we have reinforcements en route to Shon-Xan!”
The murmurs began again. The rest of the High Command looked uneasy, but Swain appeared positively cheerful.
“War is madness,” the Master Tactician said, “and only with madness on our side will there be victory.”
* * *
The Ionians moved swiftly, isolating their target and systematically occupying all strategic points of entry into the surrounding ancient forest. The air was cool and dry, heavy with magic and the smell of sagewood. As they approached the walls of the settlement the signal came to breach with caution – the Noxians could have any number of tricks prepared. After all, it was ludicrous that they would even attempt to resist the overwhelming numbers of the Ionian force, especially when the elite legion was currently fleeing the region. Something wasn’t right. The soldiers entered the settlement, wide-eyed and wary, scanning the structures for any sign of a potential ambush.
It came from the sky. The only warning the Ionians received was the whirring of propellers and the great shadow cast by the airships as they took their position directly above the settlement. There was a moment, just before the bombs dropped, when Noxians and Ionians alike lowered their weapons, staring in awe at the massive machines of death which floated above them like ominous black clouds.
The moment passed, the bombs dropped, and from her position at the vanguard, Riven watched as the Zaunite zeppelins set the world on fire.
The panic was immediate and violent, with those surviving the explosions scrambling for cover as the violet poison gas began to leak from the broken canisters littering the ground. Hextech distortion rays cut through the magical miasma, burning the air, ground and everything in between. Ionian or Noxian, it did not matter; the abomination that was Zaun’s bastardized techmaturgy did not discriminate.
Riven stood shellshocked, mouth agape despite the suffocating chemicals. “No,” she whispered to herself, “no, no, this can’t be happening again…”
A refugee mother, her swaddled infant held close to her chest, ran out into the open as the gas penetrated the buildings. Seconds in the poison brought her choking to her knees. She looked to Riven, eyes pleading. “Help us!” the woman screamed. Riven could not move. She was paralyzed as once again her people were slaughtered before her by the madness of Zaun. An Ionian soldier stumbled to the mother, half-dragging her with him as they attempted to escape the destruction. They had almost reached the edge of the settlement when the next barrage of explosives rained down, blasting them against the walls. Riven could not move. She could not look away.
Blinding white light cascaded over the settlement as Ionian mages enacted the most powerful defensive spell they were capable of, pure astral energy purging the noxious fumes and shielding the area from the downpour of Zaunite weaponry. Their chanting increased, drawing the magic in a spiral around the center of the structures as it surged upward, driving the zeppelins out of the sky like the geyser of a mountain spring. The light disappeared into the twilight of dusk, rejoining the stars from which it was called as they began to appear. It was just past sunset.
Right on time, a representative of the League materialized with a scroll in hand. He took no notice of the devastation, walking past the corpses and ruins to hand Riven the document.
“All Noxians soldiers must evacuate Shon-Xan immediately, but civilians have won the right to remain in the settlement. The conflict has ended, and there is peace once again.”
And with that, he was gone.
‘They make a wasteland, and call it peace’, Riven thought, recalling words written long ago by a Noxian who could not possibly imagine the horrors she had just seen. The last rays of light were fading from the horizon, the night’s shadows claiming the newly barren land around the settlement. She wandered across the ruins of the settlement, ashes still smoking as what was left of the Noxian refugees tended to the fallen. There is no peace but death for the mad and the monstrous, she thought, and that is no peace at all.
Riven stopped to look skyward, away from all that she could not bear to see. The stars gleamed, reflected in the tears now streaming down her face.
There is just so much death, she thought. So much death. The High Command ignores the bloodshed. The League cannot be bothered with it. The world watches, undisturbed and uncaring, as mothers die protecting their children from weapons wielded by those charged with defending them. No one hears their cries. No one but me, Riven realized, staring into the stars. The were brighter here, the light stronger than she had ever encountered.
What has happened here is unforgivable. If this is what Noxus has become, if our leaders have chosen to sacrifice our people for their own gain…then for the sake of Noxians, Noxus must fall.
Yes – for the madness to end, for the monsters to perish, Noxus must fall.
This concludes the Shon-Xan arc.
The story continues with Part V: Hextech Revolution.