Chapter 17: A Vile Man

The salty smell of the Conqueror’s Sea was stronger than any other smell in the capital city of Demacia. As far as he could remember, Garen swore the marketplace used to reek of butchered crag meat and fresh fish. Perhaps he had been too used to the sea and the pristine streets of Demacia City, he figured. His blue eyes lingered on every small detail, such as the petricite walls of every building, the absence of dust or sand even on the wheels of the fish merchants’ carts. It had been a long year.

Garen had never been away from his homeland for that long, he realized as he rode down the Grand Street, the one that led to the Grand Plaza. Everything, from the commoners who bargained with the merchants and spoke the common tongue with a nasal accent, to the steady march of the officers who patrolled the street—everything looked different. Garen felt like an outsider. He expected to feel relieved and happy upon coming home, but he was having an out-of-body experience. The blue cape that draped his body and the Demacian steel he carried weren’t enough to not make him feel left out.

Pressing his booted heel into his mount’s side, the commander resumed his ride to the Citadel of Dawn. He had been stopping around every corner of the city, trying to remind himself that he was home, even though several weeks had passed since the intervention of the Institute of War in Kalamanda. He had woken up a couple days later in one of the rooms of the Institute, feeling sick and disoriented. Some of his memories were gone for days, but the worst part had been a visit from his mother, Lilia, the first in line to blame him for the Crown Prince’s disappearance. She had visited him as a Demacian Council representative, not as a mother, and now the King himself had summoned him. Garen wasn’t entirely sure what to say to him. Fiora Laurent and Xin Zhao had been ordered to guard Jarvan, not him, although it couldn’t count as an excuse.

As he passed the southern entrance of the Citadel, Garen spotted a royal guard riding in his direction. The man wore a helmet, which wasn’t part of the royal guard uniform, and his large mount was a black stallion. The guard removed his helmet the moment he was close enough, and Garen frowned. A man who seemed slightly younger than him bowed his head, a mop of straight black hair falling over his face as the wind blew harder. His almond-shaped eyes stared into Garen’s bright eyes and he smiled.

“Garen Crownguard, Captain of the Dauntless Vanguard, right?”

“Not for the past year,” Garen said flatly, not even bothering to hide the disgrace anymore.

The royal guard smiled at him again, handing him a letter bearing the King’s seal. “Your days as a commander and diplomat in Kalamanda are over, Captain. The King granted you your previous position.”

Garen scowled at the royal decree after breaking the seal. The guard wasn’t lying. Clearing his throat, he finally asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?”

“Zelos, son of Lito, the new Captain of the King’s Guard,” he answered proudly.

“Zelos, son of Lito?” Garen repeated, arching an eyebrow.

The younger man grinned. “We don’t go by family names in Ionia,” he explained. “My father was a renowned swordsman master, and my younger sister is currently the Captain of the Guard at the Placidium. As you both were judged by the League, you probably know her. Her name is Irelia.”

Grunting, Garen shoved the document in the bag tied to the saddle and ignored the last few words of Zelos. “So, you replace Fiora Laurent? Exactly, how did an Ionian end up serving the King of Demacia?”

The black-haired man’s smile never faltered. “Eight years ago, when the Noxian invasion began in Ionia, I traveled here to seek assistance. It wasn’t long before I heard that my sister proudly and successfully defended our land, and my own cooperation with the Demacian forces earned me an honorable rank. Soon after that, I was naturalized Demacian.” Extending his right arm and offering a handshake, Zelos added, “The King decided that after the events that led to the disappearance of Prince Jarvan IV, it was time that the King’s Guard and the Dauntless Vanguard worked as one elite group, something that would have been impossible before today, given the former captain’s personality.”

Refusing the handshake, Garen motioned his horse to trot past the new captain. “I work alone,” he stated.

“You never have,” Zelos countered, following him. “Until not so long ago, the last heir of the Spiritmight family assisted you as an officer and squire, even when his combat abilities were quite limited,” he reminded him. “During your mission in Kalamanda, you also teamed up with the Sinister Blade of Noxus to break up a fight that could have ended tragically, or so the Journal of Justice reports at least,” he added. “And prior to Spiritmight’s appointed role, you would only be seen with the Oathbreaker. You never worked alone,” Zelos elaborated.

Garen glared away, refusing to turn around. “You did your homework,” he commented dryly.

“Believe me,” Zelos said light-heartedly, “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t ordered to. Jory Spiritmight died in the last battle against Noxus, the Sinister Blade is missing and probably dead as well and Taric is losing what is left of his sanity at Mount Targon. You are no one’s lucky charm,” he dared to joke. “By the way, the King is waiting in his private chambers, colleague,” Zelos informed him, halting his horse and grinning at the angry man’s back.

Garen let out an infuriated sigh, and his horse took off at a fast speed. He expected the King to receive him in the Throne Room, as always, but if he waited in his private chambers then it meant that Garen had to ride north of the Citadel, which would take nearly an hour, and then climb all the stairs that led to the right wing, where the King’s private apartments were. It could only mean one thing; the King wasn’t feeling good at all.

It was already past midday when the Captain of the Dauntless Vanguard arrived at his destination. Every ten steps, a royal guard stood still, from the stairs up to the cupola. Garen didn’t know most of them, and he figured they left their assigned spots only rarely. Garen’s felt the soreness in his thighs after such a climb, and wished he could simply head to the barracks and see his companions after all the time he spent away from Demacia. He couldn’t lie to himself; a part of him rejoiced at the fact that he was back to doing what he was always meant to do, but another part of him cringed at his new colleague. The former Ionian was too confident for his own good, and Garen doubted that a cooperation between different ranks on a daily basis would strengthen the troops. Zelos was the captain of a robotic mass that stared at walls most of the time, while the Dauntless Vanguard were the fighters of the realm.

Garen’s eyes widened as he reached the doors to the King’s chambers. Seneschal Xin Zhao stood outside, his long hair gone and a grim expression marking his features.

“When did you come back?” he whispered, trying to hide his surprise.

Xin Zhao nodded at him. “Only a few days ago.”

“The Crown Prince?”

The seneschal shook his head. “I didn’t find him,” he lied. “I found Lady Buvelle, slightly injured but healthy. We sought refuge in Sing-Stones for some days, waiting for her injuries to start scarring, and then we traveled back.” When a disappointed Garen didn’t respond, Xin Zhao opened the doors behind him and let him in. “The King is ill.”

Garen slowly made his way inside, but not before leaving his broadsword at the entrance. No weapons were allowed inside the King’s apartments. His eyes were glued to the floor and Garen didn’t find himself admiring the opulent luxury that surrounded him. Three generations of Lightshields lived in those chambers, bathed in the smell of precious stones and slept in the silkiest sheets. King Jarvan III had allowed only a few paintings to be hung on the walls, and most of them were portraits of his ancestors. The tall walls that seemed to bend into the cupola were covered in furs and golden furniture where the King left ancient weapons or items that would have otherwise been in a museum. The colored glass windows were stained with epic images of times that probably never even existed, dark winged figures unknown to the human people of Valoran fighting the Angels of the Universe.

After dragging his feet past the empty living room that was bigger than the gardens of his own palace, Garen made his way inside the King’s bedchamber, straightening his back and lifting his head, only to be met with the sight of King Jarvan III sitting in his large bed and staring at him with narrowed eyes.

“Your Grace,” Garen whispered, bowing.

“Did Zelos find you?” the King asked, his voice throaty and his tone serious.

The Captain nodded.

“Good.” The King coughed before he added, “You will both leave for Kalamanda. Take ten of your best men with you, and bring my son back.”

“Your Majesty—”

“Look at me,” the King interrupted him, shoving the covers away from his body.

Garen furrowed his brow as he only saw the King’s bare thighs.

“That gigantic wave of magic paralyzed half of my body,” the Demacian ruler whispered angrily. “The Institute of War is organizing a summit with Noxus and the Kalamanda councilmen to discuss the future of those wastelands,” he said with an intensifying glare. “All of this doesn’t matter,” he told Garen, waving at his legs. “Kalamanda doesn’t matter,” he added. “Xin can negotiate whatever the Institute wants. What really matters is that you find my son. It’s not as if I can produce another heir anymore,” King Jarvan III added with a detached tone that worried Garen.

“Your Grace, we don’t even know if the Crown Prince is in Kalamanda at the moment.”

The King laughed bitterly. “You’re right, Crownguard. But you see,” he winced, trying to sit up, “Before they raze the entire village to the ground, I want the prison of Kalamanda to be inspected one last time. I know that those Noxian dogs are the ones who poisoned the young Garvin, and I plan on using everything I can to confront Boram Darkwill’s successor. They blatantly tried to frame us and took my son away.”

Garen couldn’t help but answer, “We can’t say for sure that Noxus has him.”

“That woman,” the King spat. “Did she come close to my son at any point during the battle?”

“I highly doubt it,” the Vanguard Captain answered flatly, knowing exactly who the King was talking about. “And in honesty, Your Grace, I don’t think she had any reason to talk to him or to assassinate him.”

“And how do you know,” the invalid ruler asked quietly, letting his head fall back against the cushions of the headrest. “Did she tell you that or did you assume it?”

“No, she didn’t tell me,” Garen muttered, looking away.

King Jarvan III coughed again, and he rubbed his sore throat. “When I was a very young king,” he began, “I was betrothed to the most beautiful woman in all Demacia. She was more beautiful than my sister, more beautiful than my mother—more beautiful than your mother, too. But as strange as it may sound, I didn’t want her as my queen,” he confessed with a saddened smile, letting his stare drift to the ornaments of the ceiling. “Catherine loved a man. A vile man who would never come back for her, and who spied our government for years.

“I met him, once when the summoners who later became the High Councilors of the Institute of War united the rulers of the main city-states of Valoran to discuss a peace treaty that would include the creation of the League of Legends, and a second time when the Institute was founded. He sat right there, next to his Grand General, with his bastard child whining on his lap. No one in the conference room knew that he had brought the toddler only to insult me, no one. They all thought he was being a considerate father with a wife who was ill and stayed at home.

“I can still see his emerald eyes grinning at me as the child munched on her tiny, chubby fingers with her gums,” the King whispered hoarsely, ignoring Garen’s confused look as he tried to process his words. “I never regretted honoring my promise to take Catherine Spiritmight as my consort after I found her in the care of her sister at Fossbarrow. She wept that day, and promised me to be a great Queen.

“And she was. She was always faithful. We had three children; the first boy was stillborn, the second died at the age of four after what the Maidens of the Light called the passing of the Black Mist—fever took my son’s life. And then, Jarvan was born. Catherine was always sad, however; she spent her days at the Temple of the Lightbringers, and barely ate, until the day her heart failed her after years of weakening her body.

“I spent years listening to my son asking me why his mother was always hiding inside the temple, and why I never visited her. Kings reign, I always answered. They rule and serve the people. I know that Jarvan always resented me after Catherine’s death and he will never know the sacrifices we all made to have him reign one day as well.

“He will never know, but he’s all that we have left.”

Garen’s throat tightened slightly as the King looked back at him with grief and pain written all over his face. Bowing, Garen slowly walked up to the King’s bed and grabbed the covers to pull them back up to avoid any cold breeze worsen his ruler’s health condition.

***

The Noxtoraa located west of Noxus Prime was guarded by the same guards for over a decade. The gateway connected the borders of the Empire through a bridge that ran over the Nox Flumen river and majestic red flags draped the sides of it. The tallest guard seemed to be half-asleep since his head lolled from side to side, occasionally resting on the axe that leaned into his body. The other one was short and slightly flabby, but the cruel look in his eyes compensated his stature.

“How do we get in?” Jarvan whispered to the two Noxians who crouched next to him behind the last firs of the forest. “Can’t we just try to cross the river by swimming?”

Talon tugged on the torn fabric that the Demacian prince used as a cloak and grunted. “I am not crossing a river with someone who probably can’t even swim without splashing his arms into the water and making a whole lot of noise.”

Jarvan shrugged, trying to hide his annoyance.

“How much do you care about your nose?” Katarina whispered.

“Why—?”

Before he managed to ask a question, Katarina’s pointed elbow embedded itself into his face, and she immediately covered his mouth to strangle his complaints. Jarvan felt his nose bleed and his head reel, and before he knew it, his wrists were tied with a rope. Talon dragged him forcefully towards the Noxtoraa, and Jarvan silently cursed himself for even trusting the two Noxians in the first place. He should have let Xin Zhao deal with them.

“Names,” the short guard asked, his voice sounding metallic as he spoke with his helmet on.

“Katarina Du Couteau,” the red-haired assassin quickly replied. “And Talon, member of the Crimson Elite and my father’s servant.”

Pointing his axe at the hunched man tied up and covered in his own blood, the guard asked, “Who’s that?”

“A slave I bought in Shurima,” Katarina answered with confidence in her voice, earning herself a startled look from Jarvan.

A couple seconds passed before the guard lowered his weapon. “Welcome home, Lady Du Couteau.”

The moment they passed the Noxtoraa and strolled down to the outskirts of Noxus Prime, Jarvan let out a sigh. “I thought you almost—”

“Hush, slave,” the redhead silenced him with an amused smirk.

Noxus Prime wasn’t exactly how Jarvan imagined it. The first time he was brought to the capital city of the Empire, he had been chained and gagged, and he had been thrown inside the dungeons of the Immortal Bastion. Walking through the outskirts of the capital and into the main districts was entirely different, even though his hands were tied once again.

Jarvan thought that Noxus Prime was colder and dirtier; he heard many things about the capital, but seeing it with his own eyes made him realize how many lies were told about the capital. The outskirts weren’t as clean as the Demacian hills, that was true; fallen leaves littered the grounds and he saw many rats scurry away at the sounds of his footsteps. The weather wasn’t as warm as in Demacia City, but it was still nowhere near as terrible as others described it.

The three travel companions reached the Ivory Ward district in silence, Jarvan taking in the entire atmosphere and architecture that surrounded them. The taverns were filled with Noxians who seemed to be either brawling or having heated conversations, and he guessed it had everything to do with the fact that the Grand General of Noxus was dead, and the city was buzzing at the upcoming event that would grant them a new leader. The streets were otherwise quiet, but one thing that stood out was the sight of many homeless people begging for charity.

Jarvan nearly reached inside his pocket to find a couple valors, but Talon glared at him.

“Don’t you dare. They’re all going to die overnight and your gold will be stolen.”

“To die?” the Crown Prince asked, frowning when Talon didn’t answer him.

“When the drunken soldiers will head home, they will stop to beat them to death,” Katarina eventually said coldly. “Forever strong is our motto,” she reminded him. “Old people, sick people—anyone who can’t find a way to make themselves useful are an inconvenience.”

“You think they chose to be old or sick?” Jarvan retorted angrily. “Isn’t there a temple you could bring them to?”

“The Immortal Bastion is our temple,” the redhead explained calmly. “Law is our religion. And the law is clear; let the bloodshed begin.”

Talon’s lips curved up, half of his face covered by his hood. Jarvan missed the glance the assassin directed at him, too busy staring at the alarmingly skinny poor people that begged for mercy around every corner of the district. There was no longer a hint of beauty in the buildings carved into the mountain named Noxus Prime. The dark grey cobblestones didn’t trigger his curiosity anymore, just as the opal-covered sidewalks no longer shone in his eyes.

Jarvan moved without even thinking, his mind entirely blank as they pulled on his rope and brought him to one of the highest peaks of Noxus Prime, right where the Manoir Du Couteau was erected many generations ago. The gardens were in a terrible state; most of the plants died during the summer, and the manor was engulfed in the darkness. Nothing produced light inside, and all in all, it looked abandoned. If the previous conversation hadn’t happened, Jarvan would have asked where the housekeepers—or slaves, as Katarina said—were.

Talon kicked the main doors open, readying the blade that was mounted on his right arm. Swiftly, he cut the rope that was bruising Jarvan’s wrists and silently lit the few candles that were still usable. His posture signaled that he was still scanning the house, probably wondering if anyone got in over the past year, but given Katarina’s relaxed state, he was acting slightly paranoid.

The redhead brushed her fingertips over the dusty furniture of the fumoir, taking off her own ruined cloak and leaving it on the floor. She didn’t expect to ever come home, she realized. Everything was still intact; from the blades that adorned the walls to the portraits of her mother and sister. The large rug that covered nearly the entire floor was still stained with the wine she spilled when she was nine years old by kicking the table where her father would enjoy a cigar and a glass of alcohol.

“There is a bunch of mail,” Jarvan commented, grabbing the pile of envelopes that had been slipped under the doors.

Katarina glanced at him, a dull look in her eyes. She quickly scanned the letters, her eyes lingering on the senders’ names for only half a second before throwing most of the mail in the unlit fireplace. After forty discarded letters, the assassin frowned, breaking the seal of a missive sent by the High Command. The recipient’s name wasn’t Du Couteau, but Crimson Elite members.

“What is it?” Talon asked as he worked on lighting the fireplace, hoping the wood that was left would actually burn and completely oblivious to the way Katarina’s face paled.

“Riven is dead,” she whispered.

Talon’s back stiffened, and he remained silent, not asking for any further information.

“She never returned to the Noxian camp in Navori, they say. Steward Invetia Varn found shattered pieces of her weapon and she was nowhere to be found for several days until the troops sailed back to Noxus,” Katarina explained, letting herself fall into the chair behind her.

Talon made a sound, swallowing a cough before going back to lighting the fireplace, crossing the logs over the paper and refusing to look at Katarina, who was folding the letter with shaky hands. He figured she would have cried, but he heard her weep every night during their journey, so she probably didn’t have any tears left.

“Who is CDC?” Jarvan’s voice interrupted their respective thoughts as he eyed one of the letters that had yet to be examined by the redhead.

The two assassins bolted out of their seats, and Katarina snatched the letter from Jarvan’s hands. She quickly tore the envelope, wide green eyes reading the contents of the message. Talon was right behind her, his own eyes unable to blink as he scanned the letter.

“Who is it?” Jarvan repeated, growing anxious at their out-of-character behavior.

“It’s Cassiopeia,” Katarina gasped out. “Cassiopeia Du Couteau, my younger sister.”

“She writes from Shurima,” Talon noted. “I thought she was hiding in the Freljord—that’s where I sent the letter telling her not to come back last year. The Noxian infiltrators said they spotted her there.”

“She doesn’t mention your message at all,” Katarina replied. “All she says is to open the red door.”

Jarvan scratched his head, sighing loudly. “The red door? Can’t she be more specific?”

“That door once led to the left wing of the manor,” Katarina answered. “But the left wing was destroyed centuries ago during a war between Noxus and Demacia, so that door didn’t connect anymore. One of my ancestors died during the siege and the destruction of that part of the manor,” she remembered her father’s tales.

“The red door was condemned,” Talon reasoned out loud. “There is no way to open it.” Shaking his head, he asked, “When did she send this?”

Three pairs of eyes glanced at the top right corner of the letter.

Jarvan pointed at the date. “June 20, 21 CLE.”

***

To Our Fallen Heroes

The engraved stone was surrounded by a bright blue light, but Garen’s gloved fingers still brushed against it, ignoring the energy that emanated from the monument that was erected where Kalamanda Hall once stood. The list was so long that the eighteen feet tall tombstone was covered with names, although only two stood out in Garen’s eyes.

Off. J. Spiritmight

Mayor A. Ridley

The Captain of the Dauntless Vanguard didn’t know about the Mayor’s death until he arrived in Kalamanda. He didn’t recognize the place anymore, since every hut was razed to the ground and several summoners were already tracing the edges of what seemed to be a Field of Justice. He had met High Councilors Kolminye and Mandrake earlier, as they directed him and his men to the nearest secured area of Kalamanda. What once was the Hasty Hammer Tavern had turned into a refugee camp for busy summoners and Demacian officers sent by the King. Both Kolminye and Mandrake didn’t see any problem in visiting the prison of Kalamanda one last time, but they both repeated that it was completely empty and that they had probably traveled for nothing.

Garen agreed with them, albeit silently, but the King’s orders were clear and he wouldn’t let him down. If there was anything he could find about Garvin before looking for the Crown Prince in the surrounding lands, he would at least try.

The Captain reached inside his pocket, unfolding an anonymous note he had found in his napkin after the late lunch he had at the camp. The summoner in charge of serving the food had left in a hurry after offering him the napkin, and Garen wished he had taken a closer look at the hooded man. He could only remember a distinct five o’clock shadow. If only he hadn’t been tired and starved, he would have noticed that the summoner wasn’t in a hurry because of the crowded place and the many dishes to serve.

The note was clear and unclear at the same time. He will return for the evidence left uncovered.

Beside him, Captain Zelos and a new officer that went by the name of Elim Relgar shivered in the desert night. It would soon be midnight, Garen figured, and the two men that were about to follow him inside the prison weren’t used to the Kalamandan weather at all. He would have smiled if he wasn’t entirely focused on finding out who dared leave him with such a note, trying to lure him into a place he already planned on examining.

Unsheathing his broadsword, Garen nodded at Zelos and Elim, and the three of them quietly walked inside. The hallway was narrow, and the entire structure didn’t even look like a prison. There was never a lot of crime going on in Kalamanda, so Garen couldn’t judge the mayor and his councilmen for not building a proper prison instead of settling for a few cells that were easy to break out from.

“I don’t see anything,” Elim whispered, scratching his blonde beard.

“Amateur,” Zelos taunted, his small eyes scanning the area and his thin sword pointing at the far end of the corridor where empty cells lined up. “There’s a shadow over there,” he said, running a hand through his bangs to push them away from his eyes.

Garen didn’t need to hear more. As he was about to charge, Zelos ran to the shadow, shocking both his companions when he made absolutely no noise, the wood underneath his feet never once cracking. The Captain of the Royal Guards held his sword to the back of a figure’s head, but before he could utter a word, Zelos found himself thrown against the ceiling, causing a large hole before collapsing to the ground, unconscious. The faint sound of steel reached Garen’s ears and he marched decisively towards the intruder.

“Get him,” he ordered Elim, nodding at Zelos’ body.

The vanguard soldier rushed to the Captain’s side, failing to drag him outside when he noticed that Zelos passed out.

The shadow stood up, and Garen tried to adjust his eyesight. The hole in the ceiling made it easier to see the man who was standing up right in front of what used to be Thom Garvin’s cell since the blue light that emanated from the nexuses the summoners worked on lightened the entire village.

The intruder wasn’t as tall as him, he noted, but even the black cloak draping his unarmored body didn’t hide his strong, lean muscles. His hood fell halfway down his face, and Garen’s blue eyes narrowed at the sight of his five o’clock shadow. The intruder clicked his tongue against his teeth, drawing a dreadful broadsword. Ruby stones adorned the hilt, and curves were carved into the steel. If he wasn’t about to kill this man, Garen would have complimented him for the artistic weapon.

The hooded figured pointed his sword at the unconscious Zelos. “Unmatched,” he whispered, smirking.

Holding his sword with two hands, Garen roared, “Who are you? And what are you doing here?”

His questions were ignored. “Demacian steel is also called silver steel, right?” he wondered out loud. “Isn’t it the lightest steel in Valoran? I don’t see why you would need both hands to brandish it.”

Charging at the intruder, Garen let out a cry before slamming his weapon into the floor, aiming at the unknown man but failing to hit him. He stood right next to Garen, his teeth showing as he grinned.

“You’re slow.”

Nostrils flaring, the Captain of the Dauntless Vanguard brandished his broadsword once more, only to cross blades with the stranger, who kept his other arm behind his back, parrying his blow with ease. Garen shouldered him away, striking right and sinking left, but with every clash of steel the intruder grew more amused. He spun when Garen planted the hilt of his sword into his side, and nearly lost his balance. Taking advantage of it, Garen went for his other side, effectively causing the man to dance backwards and breathe heavily. The blue-eyed soldier planted his right foot on the ground before a quick spin to charge his blow, his blade nearly cutting off the intruder’s head. The hooded figure bent backwards, smelling the scent of death before shoving his foot into Garen’s stomach, pushing him a couple feet away.

The intruder retaliated, lifting his ruby sword and leading Garen in every direction he pleased. His steel left scratches on the Captain’s face, spilling his blood on the floor.

“Captain!” Elim panicked, standing up to run to him.

The shadow didn’t even acknowledge him, keeping Garen in place as he forcefully delivered blows at an inhuman speed. The moment the soldier neared him, he disarmed him with a flick of his wrist before kicking him in the jaw, sending him into the wall that cracked with the impact.

“Your shoulders are way too tense,” he commented educatively.

Leaning against the nearest cell bars, Garen spit the blood in his mouth and glared at him. “What were you doing in here?” he asked the intruder again.

“Waiting for the Might of Demacia,” the hooded man replied with a shrug, before delivering another blow that Garen countered with the front of his sword. “The Might of Demacia who is slow when he eats, and slow when he fights.”

At a particularly bold blow aimed at his neck, Garen shoved his elbow into the intruder’s face, knocking him back and making his hood fall. Trimmed crimson hair caught his eye, and the man began laughing, covering his bleeding nose.

“I know where you learned that,” he said more to himself than to Garen.

The Captain of the Dauntless Vanguard solemnly walked up to him, his broadsword ready to strike. “For the last time, who are you?”

The intruder wiped away the blood that collected in the palm of his hand, and he sniffed. Emerald green eyes stared right back at Garen and the two men remained frozen in place for a heartbeat. The unmasked man blinked away from Garen’s sight, and the Captain felt a swift cut into his abdomen. His eyes darted around, trying to look for his opponent, when a series of short, pointed blades embedded themselves into his chest and legs, drawing an incredible amount of blood in just a split second, and the intruder dissolved into the shadows.

Garen collapsed to his knees, trying to catch his breath as he felt the blood soaking his clothes and armor. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he fell forward, missing the note that dropped next to him.

1MCl – 125

UNKINDNESS – 325

lost will – 701

Quarter egress – 703

Mirror Play – 722

Quarter to Clutter – 908

(Opal Market)

 

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