Previous Update: A Lucky Break
by Agrofox (edited by CupcakeTrap and Montesque64)
Ashen clouds far south
A red rain falls from the smoke…
A sneer replaced his usual grimace as Darius dropped the crumpled parchment, letting it fall to the ground like the dry leaf of a dead tree. Beside him, Warwick panted greedily, his eyes fixated on the carnage before them.
“If only their warriors were as skilled as their poets.”
The front line of the Noxian infantry had caught the small Ionian defense by surprise, the darkforged halberds impaling those unfortunate enough to be first into combat. Those that survived the initial clash were trampled beneath the hooves of the black equines called “nightmares,” creatures as demonic and violent as the men who rode upon them. The wicked sabers of the cavalry cut down whatever their steeds did not crush. After the opening maneuvers of the battle, the Ionian guard had a little more than a third of their force left. The Noxian army had sustained minimal casualties.
The rest was butchery.
Noxians cackled and howled as they carved the flesh of the remaining defenders, their cruelty and bloodlust unbound and unmatched. Virtually helpless against the overwhelming numbers of the battalion, Ionian after Ionian fell to the blades of madmen and murderers, leaving drops of crimson on viridian armor. Those crippled by their wounds were not spared: undead executioners animated by Noxian necromancy brought up the rear of the force, cleaving indiscriminately with colossal axes as they trudged forward. In mere moments the outpost was transformed into a graveyard, corpses covering the battlefield, debris and viscera littering the ground.
Darius had grown familiar with the scene, repeated time and again over the last week of the campaign. He took no pleasure in it. These half-hearted massacres of local militias and ragtag regiments were but the prelude to the grand battle awaiting them in the valley, the final confrontation that would decide the fate of Shon-Xan once and for all.
“Damned dogs of Noxus! You will be defeated!”
The cry came from just behind him. In the midst of the battlefield, struggling to remain upright with his back against a fallen steed, a lone soldier remained alive, miraculously passed over by the bloodthirsty horde. A quick glance informed Darius that the Ionian possessed neither a weapon nor the ability to stand.
Darius knelt beside the fallen defender, his enormous battle-axe still hefted over his shoulder.
“Do you know who I am?”
The soldier, no more than a boy, glared at him fiercely. “The Hand of Noxus,” he said, eyes darting from Darius to Warwick, “and his hound.” He spat on the ground in defiance, but winced as the effort strained his broken ribs. Darius chuckled.
“I am the man who will claim Shon-Xan for Noxus, who will succeed where my predecessors failed and wipe your miserable people off this island.”
“Have you no humanity at all?” cried the soldier in desperation.
“What you call humanity is nothing more than the failure of the fainthearted to do what is necessary,” Darius scoffed. He paused. “I killed my captain for attempting to retreat. Took his life and his head without hesitation. I would expect my own men to do the same were I to show such weakness in war. You Ionians couldn’t possibly understand that kind of dedication. That is why your people will lose, and why Noxus will be victorious. We deserve to conquer you, we deserve to kill you, and we deserve to take your land.”
“You’re a monster,” said the soldier through gritted teeth. He flinched as Darius leaned in to reply.
“So says every lamb to every lion,” said the Noxian, “yet never does it stop the slaughter.” Darius laughed and rose to his feet. “But perhaps you will have better luck appealing to a wolf…oh Warwick…”
The Blood Hunter crept closer, salivating and snarling. The reality of the situation settled in the mind of the Ionian, and finally he broke. The soldier began to weep, his eyes wide and full of terror, the fear overtaking all else. Warwick shuddered with delight. He could smell the stench of it.
“Please, have mercy!” the boy sobbed.
Warwick cocked his head in morbid amusement, lips curling as he bared his yellow fangs. In his last moment alive the soldier realized the beast was grinning.
“No,” said Darius.
Across the valley, the full might of Ionia prepared for battle. They had gathered in the thousands from all over the isle, brave men and women ready to defend their home from the evil that had invaded once more. At the vanguard stood the Blade Mistress and the Seneschal of Demacia, eyes trained on the horizon for the first sight of Noxian forces. It would not be long now.
It was calm here, almost peaceful. The valley was one of the few places in Shon-Xan untouched by the violence and destruction of the war. A light breeze rolled through the Ionian army, bending the grass before them and carrying the sweet scent of budding flowers. Even the most stoic of soldiers breathed deep the smell of spring. A few allowed themselves a smile. But the moment passed, and the bitterness of fatigue and grief returned.
Irelia was lost in memory, recalling how the tragedies had begun. Innocents seeking refuge, she thought. Noxians, to be sure, but innocents nonetheless…and now…Shon-Xan had been made scarlet once more with the bloodshed of Ionian and Noxian alike. She shook her head in sadness and anger. How had it come to this?
She envisioned the faces of the High Command of Noxus, imagined the calculated cruelty in their eyes as they ordered the invasion. Those who seek only power deserve only death, she thought. Then she pictured the funeral pyre of the refugees slain at the hands of Ionians, who knew nothing of their government’s plot…rage was joined by remorse, her heart conflicted as ever. Can there be any balance with such violence?
“Their lives are forfeit,” Xin Zhao said, sensing her internal struggle. “They relinquished their right to live years ago, when they first attacked your people.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “There is no crime in what you have done. Sometimes balance is impossible without sacrifice.”
“Yes,” Irelia said, embracing the cold fury rising within her. “Twice they have ravaged my home. I will make sure that never happens again.”
From off the ridge, a trumpet sounded. The Noxians swarmed over the hill, screeching battle cries and waving tattered banners, a wave of darkness crashing against the amber grass of the valley. Irelia steeled herself. Her blades began to dance, tracing deadly arcs in the air, whirling faster and faster as the Noxians continued their advance.
“Here they come,” she said.
“Yes,” Xin Zhao said with grim resolve, readying his spear for the first strike. “To their death.”
Irelia turned to her army. The hardened, battle-worn faces of her soldiers told her the story of Shon-Xan, and the fire still burning in their eyes told her the ending. They had suffered the evils of Noxus too long, and would suffer them no more. They needed no speech – only the command to charge. Irelia’s blades came to a sudden stop, suspended and still in the air. It was time.
“Cut them down.”
Ashen clouds far south
A red rain falls from the smoke
Blood on spring blossoms.
Next Update: Peace
Images are from the LoL wiki; I believe they are Riot’s.